18 years after the release of their landmark self-titled debut, Cardinal – the recording collaboration between Richard Davies and Eric Matthews – are preparing to unveil their long awaited new album. The new record, entitled Hymns, picks up where their debut left off – well-crafted, layered orchestral pop, with Matthews’ multi-instrumental talents enhancing Davies’ sublime songwriting gems.
Hymns comprises ten new originals, another milestone in the band’s quest to provide the missing link in chamber pop history, following the Beatles and Bee Gees and before Belle & Sebastian, and a worthy follow up to their self-titled debut, a record lauded then, and now, as one of the most important albums of the 90s.
Ushering in an era of appreciation for the orchestrated pop music the 1960s, with a modern approach, Cardinal’s debut opus, originally released in 1994, seemed to come out of nowhere with it’s layered textures and delightful melodies, swimming against the tidal wave of grunge. The record would achieve deafening acclaim, and impact other artists even to this day. But as influential and significant as Cardinal seemed, their musical output totaled that lone, brilliant self-titled record, as Matthews moved home to the West Coast while Davies remained out East.
The two embarked on individual solo careers, Davies remaining on Flydaddy, home to the Cardinal album, and Matthews on Sub Pop, and soon many, many years had passed. Miraculously though, what may have seemed to be the end of the story, was not the closing chapter for Cardinal. A reconnection between the two musicians – an on-again/off-again chronicle of creating new music – a bi-coastal recording process – took hold. Finally completed in 2011, what was thought to be a pipe dream, and an object that is sure to elicit delight from both musicians and music fans alike, a new album Hymns.
Hymns signals a new beginning for Cardinal, signing to storied independent label Fire Records – in fact, also originally home to the last album from Davies pre-Cardinal outfit, The Moles.
Hymns combines self-assured and pious pop gems (“Northern Soul”) with immense-canvas outback masterworks (“Kal”), and improbably, hot-blooded essays on the first law case Davies ever read (“Carbolic Smoke Ball”). Like the first album a lifetime ago, Hymns is a set of diamonds. Great songs – actually, plain-old-fashioned good songs, filtered through Davies’ John Donne/Sir John Mortimer law/art prism, and Matthews’ trained arranger’s ear.
The two are perfectly matched. It is clear that, once again they spur each other on to greater heights. Guitars, vocals, horns and strings, bass, along with the weird, are used with invention, purpose, and confidence.
When Cardinal was released in 1994 they were arguably the best band in the world. In 2012 with Hymns they are well positioned for a repeat performance.