Once you get past the way opening song “If You Believe in Christmas Trees,” with its fey title, its Masterpiece Theatre trumpet overdubs and Richard Davies and Eric Matthews’ crisp elocution, recalls Spinal Tap’s “(Listen to the) Flower People,” Cardinal weaves a bit of a spell. The 10-year-old album, here given a loving reissue with 11 bonus tracks and liner notes by Davies and Matthews, has since been bettered by the solo work of both songwriters. But as a soil sample of a narrow tract of underground ’90s pop that consciously walled off grunge, hip-hop and the British Evasion, it remains invitingly fertile, all harmonies, harpsichord and happy affectation. If Belle and Sebastian at first seemed like the era’s new Zombies, Matthews and Davies were ready to be its Left Banke. Which means this reissue is still 15 years early — and more valuable as a result.

Categories: Music