Shindig Magazine July 2016
SOFT HEARTED SCIENTISTS
THE HIP REPLACEMENT 2-CD
The range of this four-part, two-disc
album, encompassing as it does the band's
familiar territories of ’60s psychedelia and
Barrettesque stylings, (alongside dark
surf-rock froth, languid pickin' blues, ghost
folk and show tunes tinged with the bleak
Edwardian inflected cheeriness of the
Vietnam War era protest musical), realises
the Scientists’ forever stated aim of
transporting the listener away on a
revitalising, if disturbing, holiday.
Seven albums into their exquisite
journey and the Cardiff-based psychedelic
collective's thirst for jolly, occult-hued
sinisterism, as a means of divining both
the shadows and bright spots on the lungs
of modern society, whilst simultaneously
exploring and exploding personal angst,
has refined itself to sublime perfection.
Entirely homemade and posited as a
sibling to 2014's The Slow Cyclone, this
album has, however, its own distinctive
Among many standout tracks is
the humorously poignant 'The Missing
They just get better and better.
SOFT HEARTED SCIENTISTS Golden Omens double CD (The Hip Replacement)
Seventh album from prolific Cardiff psych band Soft Hearted Scientists, released as a double CD on 8th July 2016. Comprising a mixture of homemade and studio recorded tracks, Golden Omens continues to demonstrate the witty lyrical style and inventive approach to psych-pop and psych-folk that the Soft Hearted Scientists are known for.
Shiver Me Timbers is well crafted, intelligent, off-centre psych-pop with a multi-part song structure incorporating a super-catchy chorus. Rue the Day is dark-edged psych-folk meets quirky pop and spacey synth music, with a barbed lyrical wit.
Zeds is off-kilter DIY acoustic psych-pop, the lyrics shifting from a potted summary of the Oedipus myth to hibernating in a cardboard box to escape the British winter. Helicopters of Habershon Street is haunted psych-folk ornamented by vibraphone and eerie vintage electronics. Surferella, "a theme tune for a fictional surf goddess", puts a psychedelic spin on surf music.
Glimpse! is baroque pop with eerie folky touches. The Missing Mountains Song is innovative DIY pop inspired by a longing for the Welsh mountains whilst stranded in Bethnal Green. Cherry Blossom Velvet Vision Shield My Mind From Broken Glass is eccentric psychedelic folk sounding rather like the Incredible String Band having borrowed a synth from some spacerock outfit.
In addition to the main songs, the album is punctuated by evocative instrumental interludes with titles like 27 Seconds in Antarctica, Imaginary Film Scene #1 and On a Pathway Darkly, which aptly describe the atmospheres the pieces create.
June 2016 Review for Golden Omens in Psychedelic publication Ptolemaic Terrascope.
SOFT HEARTED SCIENTISTS – GOLDEN OMENS
Thoroughly British lightly psychedelic and exquisitely crafted pop.
Like The Slow Cyclone which came out in 2014, this is divided into four sections comprising short and often incredibly sweet instrumental vignettes and charming sounding ditties of which the majority seem to be nonsensical or autobiographical (or perhaps nonsensically autobiographical) but entertaining stories in their own right.
There is also an everyday feel to some lyrics – the misery of the British winter, the banality of TV “popular culture” for instance, while some of the more personal content hint at darker themes of homesickness and breakdown. Like Cyclone it also has an endearingly rough-hewn edge to it – you can sense that the overdubs have been kept to a minimum, so listen out for the occasional squeak or clunk.
Of those implausibly lovely instrumentals, “Imaginary Film Scene No.1” and “On A Pathway Darkly” sound practically utopian in their bucolic simplicity yet splendour and the polar opposite end of the “psychedelic spectrum” from the drone monsters.
As for the wordy-ones, “Golden Omens”, “Shiver Me Timbers” are among the early strong pace setters. “The Opportunity”, when it arrives, is a melodic yet understated gem, while the Gorky’s-like “Helicopters Of Habershon Street”, the twilight “Glimpse!” with its wistful “ghosts of the young men we once were”, and that unerring pop bullseye “The Creeps!” make for such a strong supporting cast that you simply have to marvel at the pleasure to be had in Hall and company’s “Syd meets Fabs meet the Oldham Tinkers” brand of wonderland whimsy.
Seventh album time for the sentimental boffins, and four sides/two CDs worth of the kind of music that gives pigeonholes a bad name. With a title track that shimmers like a surf western soundtrack, if XTC had ever tried shooting one; a folky instrumental that’s all about the weather; and another that would simply ooze psychedelia if it didn’t sound like Davy Graham, Golden Omens does nod towards the P word more often than not, but that’s all it does. It nods.
Reputations are good, after all, to lure people in, but the Scientists have never placed all their eccentricities in one basket, and Golden Omens would kick them over if they had. Punctuating the songs with brief, haunting soundscapes, it’s the kind of album that chases you round the house for fun, then tickles your feet when it catches you. “Zeds” is maddening, a nonsensical chant over plangent acoustics, with one entire verse of wordless muse; and “Strange Oceans” is a nursery rhyme for solo Syd Barrett fans.
And there’s a McCartney-Wings mood that clings to everything, from the days when Wildlife and Ram were home to his heart, and he refused to take his own past seriously. “You think ‘Let It Be’ was meaningful? Wait till you’ve heard ‘C-Moon’.” Or “Incredible Design,” for that matter. If you’ve never thought of jellyfish as chandeliers, you will now.
Things get even weirder across the second half of the album, as it holds a fun house mirror up to the first, and takes off from there. Again, a short melodic intro; again, a ride on the woody, with “Surferella’ rolling like the Who at Big Sur.
“Glimpse!” is as melancholy as its opposite number, “Shiver Me Timbers,” is raucous, but it still feels like a sea shanty; and so on. And then there’s “The Missing Mountains Song,” a slice of wry autobiography about a young man leaving London for a new life in the Scientists’ hometown of Cardiff, delivered complete with one of rock’s most memorable slabs of iconoclastic scorn – “take your jellied eels and burn them in the fires of hell.”
Twenty-seven tracks and not a dull moment among them. The Scientists might have invented perfection.
DJ Astro Astralzone blog
The Soft Hearted Scientists is one of MANY great bands that I have found through Fruits de Mer Records and definitely one of the most interesting as well. This double CD is the 7th album by this Cardiff-based psych rock/folk outfit and recorded mostly at home like some of their earlier stuff. There is a warm, home-baked feel on the album, but the sound and overall production is still great and professional. The album is divided into four parts and lasts for a little over one hour.
There are 26 tracks in total, so average track length is pretty short. There are lots of little instrumental interludes, and just like before, all the little pieces form a nicely flowing whole. The lyrics are very important in the great songs that at first seem very simple. Only after listening to the album many times you realize how well-crafted and clever the music really is.
The instrumentation includes electric and acoustic guitars, kitchen sink percussion, vintage keyboards and weird, psychedelic effects, and I really enjoy the vocals.
I'm having difficulties in finding anything that sounds like the Soft Hearted Scientists, but they must have been listening to Syd's Pink Floyd to get so whimsical, late 60s/early 70s UK acid folk for the beautiful/spooky acoustic vibes, Robyn Hitchcock for the 80s alternative/indie ingredients etc. and there are lots of pop elements, electronic beats and even some surf & country stuff in there as well as nature sounds and other samples. I also really like the cover art made by one of the band members.
Something has been stirring in Cardiff! The Soft Hearted Scientists have been hidden away in their secret laboratory with bottles of ginger beer, jelly babies and re-runs of 'The Prisoner'. Quiet bunch, the Scientists. Apart from the odd rant on Facebook they keep themselves to themselves until there is something to say.
After venturing into London to perform at Games For May, they returned to Wales muttering rumours of a new record.
So, 'Golden Omens' is upon us. Just what can we expect?
Clocking in at just over an hour, 'Omens' is a sprawling two CD set of compositions divided into four parts. What a trip this is, enhancing their growing reputation as an inventive and leftfield nu-pyschedelic band.
With 'Golden Omens', the Scientists continue to demonstrate an amazing ability to offer insightful and witty social observation encased in moments of true beauty.
Opening with a shimmering instrumental piece, 'Little Gardens Full of Ghosts' (one of many tasteful interludes scattered throughout the album), the listener is invited into the strange world of the Soft Hearted Scientists.
Obvious references to British Psych pop are there for all to hear but Soft Hearted scientists have an uncanny ability to seamlessly and unashamedly move from a catchy chorus ('Shiver Me Timbers') to the dark psych-folk of 'Helicopters of Habershon Street' in a refreshing and innovative style.
One could easily pass the Soft Hearted Scientists off as just another “psychedelic” band attempting to re-create a past era but that would be wrong. Yes there is a touch of whimsy here and there but Nathan Hall has an uncanny ability to weave words and melodies into diverse tiny universes to explore.
'Surferella' reveals a side to Soft Hearted Scientists not often heard, an
uptempo affair totally in keeping with the unexpected twists and turns that keep popping up in the most delightful manner. 'The Creep', for instance, with Beach Boys' harmonies is followed by another pastoral instrumental
'Imaginary Film Scene 1' that could easily featured in 'The Wicker Man'.
'Golden Omens' is inventive, intriguing and beautifully played and reinforces the Soft Hearted Scientists' reputation as one of the best kept secrets on the scene at the moment. Probably the biggest compliment I can offer is that when the album ends you want press play and experience the trip all over again.
'Golden Omens' is glorious and their finest offering to date.
A BOX OF DREAMS REVIEW
It’s that time of year again.
If you long for songs depicting Simon Cowell being pulled apart by Plough horses or yearn to know more of Mr Achey Breaky Heart himself (Billy Ray Cyrus), wander no further.
This year we are presented with a double album of Welsh Wizardry from the psychedelic tunesmiths The Soft Hearted Scientists. This particular album has been on and off the player for a few weeks now as I begin to grow more accustomed to it. From little acorns mighty oaks grow and this particular disc has been tendered and nurtured to form a thing of beauty. There remains still a Kevin Ayers vibe to this band and that is not a bad thing at all as “Joy of a Toy” still remains one of my favourite albums of all time.
Quirky, melodic, catchy and very easy on the ear. I don’t know what jiggery pokery this lot get up to in their tunes laboratory but with results such as this they have hit on a winning formula yet again.
Perfect for these warm and balmy summer evenings.