Soft Hearted Scientists: Uncanny Tales From The Everyday Undergrowth

Tenth anniversary reissue of Cardiff psychedelicists’ brilliant debut.

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When Welsh collective Soft Hearted Scientists first emerged a decade ago, they immediately won us over with their sweetly melodic, whimsical brand of folk song.

As well as channelling the gently warped aesthetics of Syd Barrett and The Incredible String Band, they incorporated an element that’s often all too absent (or evident only to its creators) in most prog – humour. This reissue reminds us how their musical blueprint was established, and it remains as good an introduction as any to the band’s five albums to date. Fans of this kind of woozy reverie will instantly be converted by the simple charms of opening track Mount Palomar, but the plot thickens as the following cut Diving Bell diverts into singer Nathan Hall’s recollection of a daydream about swallowing a copy of the Highway Code and witnessing Billy Ray Cyrus offering to cut off his mullet at the gates of Hell if the devil would only spare him. No illicit substances were consumed in the making of this record. Or at least that’s probably what they told their mums. The songs on this collection are enhanced in no small part by some beautifully sun-dappled instrumentation, such as the shards of groggy organ that spider across the sublime Brother Sister and The Yongy Bongy Bo, the latter track being a verging-on-parody Edward Lear-esque ditty that is also, underneath the nonsense, a splendid little pop song. The home demo versions of the songs included on this expanded set offer a slightly fuzzier, cosier take on each track, but the fully realised nature of these songs shows that this album wasn’t the result of the stoned larking about in the studio you might lazily assume after a cursory listen. The carefully crafted set of songwriting and widescreen arrangements on Uncanny Tales From The Everyday Undergrowth were crafted by a band who already had a clear vision of the slightly wobbly, psychedelic world they wanted to create. The result is a minor classic that’s well worth rediscovering.

Johnny Sharp

Johnny is a regular contributor to Prog and Classic Rock magazines, both online and in print. Johnny is a highly experienced and versatile music writer whose tastes range from prog and hard rock to R’n’B, funk, folk and blues. He has written about music professionally for 30 years, surviving the Britpop wars at the NME in the 90s (under the hard-to-shake teenage nickname Johnny Cigarettes) before branching out to newspapers such as The Guardian and The Independent and magazines such as Uncut, Record Collector and, of course, Prog and Classic Rock