Stuck in my head this morning: “Pilf” by Cardiacs – who, I must once again stress, are the best band in the world – from their early cassette-only release The Obvious Identity. “Pilf” is an unusual song in a fathomlessly weird catalog, largely because it has a pitch-perfect late-70s power pop song – complete with a swaggering hard-rock guitar solo – dropped into the middle of another, much more typical (of Cardiacs, at least) prog-punk song that alternates between 4/4 verses and 7/8 bridges and sounds vaguely like the Buzzcocks. Cardiacs songs rarely finish anywhere near where they start, with the various bits strung together with a logic that owes more to dreams than traditional songwriting. I think that’s one of the keys to understanding the band’s hallucinatory intensity: they’re completely unafraid to violate traditional notions of structure in order to keep songs interesting, and they have the instrumental chops to make pretty much anything and everything work.
If downloading dodgy rips of even dodgier cassette-only releases from 28 years ago is not your thing, and you live in England, where there is some remote hope you might find Cardiacs records in stores, there is a flawless live version of this track, along with almost the entirety of the early Cardiacs catalog, on the two Special Garage Concerts CDs. There are maybe 3 not-so-great songs out of 32, and the rest are the sort of brilliant, convoluted pop genius that gets stuck in your head for weeks on end.