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Cocteau Twins
Albums

  • Garlands,
  • Head Over Heels,
  • Treasure,
  • The Pink Opaque,
  • Victorialand,
  • The Moon And The Melodies,
  • Blue Bell Knoll,
  • Heaven Or Las Vegas,
  • Four Calendar Cafe,
  • Milk And Kisses,








  • Adrian's Album Reviews |

    Cocteau Twins

    heaven or las vegas victorialand pink opaque treasure head over heels

    Garlands 7 ( 1982 )
    Blood Bath / Wax And Wane / But I'm Not / Blind Dumb Deaf / Shallow Then Halo / The Hollow Men / Garlands / Grail Overfloweth

    Unlikely as it may sound, given the Cocteau Twins later dream-like music, the primary influence on their formation was punk. British punk - and soon The Cocteau Twins found themselves on 4AD, alongside the likes of Australian punk trouble-makers, The Birthday Party. The name 'Cocteau Twins' was inspired by a very obscure Simple Minds track, so says the official band web-site, anyway. And, one thing I never knew? That the Cocteau Twins were Scottish?? The music, sound and feel, being so mysterious - they really could have come from absolutely anywhere. Elizabeth Frazer on vocals - mumbled, child-like vocals - almost another language - not rooted in anything. For 'Garlands', we have a distinctly goth feel, perhaps influenced by Elizabeth and co's shared love of not only The Birthday Party, but also Siouxsie And The Banshee's. Distinctive as the sound of The Cocteau Twins was, they had to have influences. Everybody does. The sound of the bass guitar is important to 'Garlands'. Will Heggie, only around for a few years - rumbles and holds together the sound. The drums are provided via a drum machine, the guitars of Robin Guthrie, laden with effects. The distinctly doomy opening 'Blood Bath' is full of this bass and full of effects. The vocals are slightly buried in the mix yet sound menacing. 'Wax And Wane' is a step forward already. It builds upon the opening song, the bass is there - the repeated "Wax And Wane" refrain the only discernable, understandable, vocal. 'But I'm Not' is uptempo, nervous and anxious, 'Blind Dumb Deaf' is slower, the bass rumbles and the vocals are stark, harsh, biting. I haven't the faintest idea what she's actually singing about, although a lyric sheet reveals "My mouthing at you / My tongue the stake / I should welt should I hold you / I should gash should I kiss you".

    For the closing four songs, we just continue. There is no particular filler, there are only eight songs, anyway. So, 'Shallow Then Halo' sounds  ominous and doomy, the guitars and vocals both. 'The Hollow Men'? T.S. Eliot wrote a poem of the same name, a rather fine one. This song doesn't appear to have anything to do with said poem, although it's so mysterious and impenetrable, that it might do. Actually, 'The Hollow Men' by T.S.Eliot is a lot less mysterious and impenetrable than this is. The album slows down for it's closing song, 'Grail Overfloweth', relying on an already established approach. Echoed vocals that sound like no other vocals on earth, doom laden bass - effect laden guitars. The album overall then is fairly goth in approach, yet also fairly attractive. A decent enough beginning.

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    Readers Comments

    Andrew Moynihan Dublin
    I have been listening to this album a lot recently having not listened to it for at least 10 years. This album for me, though not the Cocteaus greatest, is fantastic. I first heard the Cocteaus on the John Peel Festive 50 in 1983 (Wax and Wane) and thought that it was the finest, most original sound I had heard - the Cocteaus are still the only band that send a shiver down my spine when I hear them. What you have to remember is that when this album was released, Punk had died out, new wave was floundering, new romaticism was mincing along, the charts were full of drivel (no change there then) and this was a sound never heard before. I can understand that people listening to this album now, having heard later CT stuff, will think it pretty awful, but transport yourself back 23 years and give yourself the choice - Garlands or anything by Culture Club/Duran Duran/ Spandau/Kajagoogoo. I know which I would (and indeed did) choose.

    Alan Hawkins alanhaw@hotmail.com
    An exhaustingly grim record, no happiness to be found here. Just a very sparse, haunting, lonely sound - the guitar is shrill, distorted and menacing - like something you'd expect to here in a horror movie! (listen to "Shallow Then Halo"and you'll see what I mean) the vocals sound half mumbled and a little timid (and what's that cute little giggling sound Liz makes at the end of almost every line?) whilst the metronomic drum machine and kickarse bass lines hold everything together quite effectively. Also - no-one seems to mention the profound influence these guys had on the shoegazing scene in the late 80's - as much as I love Kevin Sheilds guitar playing, you've only got to listen to the first two Cocteau Twins records to see where he was getting his ideas from. As for this album, a very high 8/10.

    georgebob jamesmiller@telkomsa.net
    Garlands, combined with the excellent John Peels session 1983, is perhaps my all time favourite album. I donít usually feel compelled to publish my views but because of the mixed reviews Iíve read about this powerful album, I thought I might shed some light on the situation as I see it. It seems to me that Cocteau Twins fans are divided into two camps. The first camp consists of those, like myself, who like CT grinding post-punky material from the Will Heggie period Ė their first bass player who played on Garlands, John Peel Session 83, Lullabies, and Peppermint Pig, and who left in 1983. The second camp consists of those who prefer the shoegazingly post-Will Heggie material, and this camp very much forms the majority as about 95% of CT music is from this period (1983 Ė 98) . So is it any wonder that Garlands gets some negative reviews if 95% of those reviewing it donít like it because they have Ďsecond campí expectations. That said, one must bear ! in mind that when Garlands was released before this second camp existed, even before shoe-gazing existed, the album made a serious mark on the musical zeitgeist of 1982. With no press exposure and only a handful of live shows the album reached the top 10 in the independent chartwhere it stayed for the following year. At the end of 1982 NME readers voted it among the best albums of the year. God only knows how the Twins would have progressed from Garlands if Heggie had have stayed Ė Iíd dare to suggest that they could have made an impact like say Joy Division did. In fact, with the exception of Head Over Heels and the odd gem like From the Flagstones, Aloysius, or Aikea Ginea, I find a lot of their later stuff rather insipid. I even find some of Liz Frazerís vocals a little grating (eg, Pearly Dewdrops Drops) and I feared the band ran the risk of becoming a parody of themselves with overblown alliterated assonance-laden titles (eg Spooning Good Singing Gum or The ! Itchy Glowbo Blow). But thatís just me however! As far Garlands itself. From its spectacular abstract sleeve, which aptly represents the intense journey the listener is about to take, right down to the last wail on Grail Overfloweth, Garlands is powerful stuff and Iíve never heard anything like it. The album is the coming together of three musicians, all uniquely brilliant in their departments, who have a mutual understanding and manage to create a synergic result. Robin Guthrieís high pitched screeching guitar is almost juxtaposed alongside Will Heggieís low-pitched morose bass. And then throw Liz Frazerís powerfully raw vocals into the mix. Iím undecided as to which is my favourite track. Wax and Wane was the initial one that hooked me, as Iím sure it did for many listeners, but as time went on, I find myself falling for the albums less linear songs like The Hollow Men. Basically I like them all. If purchasing this album try to get it combined with the excellent John Peels session 1983Ė Hearsay Please has possibly got the! best intro Iíve ever heard, second only to that of Dear Heart. My only two criticisms of Garlands, although not criticisms but more observations. I sometimes think the album, even though timeless in my opinion, would have fared better if it had have been released about three years earlier so that it really would have tied in with the post-punk movement of 1979. Another thing I often wonder about Ė what might the album sound like if it had a real drummer rather than a drum machine Ė maybe this could be Robin Guthrieís next project!!I could go on Ö


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    Head Over Heels 8 ( 1983 )
    When Mama Was Moth / Five Ten Fiftyfold / Sugar Hiccup / In Our Angelhood / Glass Candle Grenades / In The Gold Dust Rush / The Tinderbox Of A Heart / Multifoiled / My Love Paramour / Musette And Drums

    Are you the type of girl/guy that needs lyrics?? I mean, obviously The Cocteau Twins have lyrics - they have vocals after all. But, I challenge anybody to listen to the records and work out the lyrics, let alone their 'meaning' without dozens and dozens of attentive listenings dedicated to exactly that task. So, another question? In the western world, music with English language vocals dominate. Completely. I can't speak of eastern music or other cultures, i'm not qualified. I do know I enjoyed an album of Ukrainian folk music, however. Yeah, i'm building upto a point. There are those who insist that the meaning of the lyrics is essential. That lyrics that actually serve a meaning and declare that meaning, poetically - are practically the only kind worth considering. Heavy metal lyrics, to these people, are just bad lyrics. Heavy metal lyrics aren't meant to be bloody Shakespeare, or a Dylan, you know? Bob, or Thomas?? Ha, ha! I'll leave that upto you. This is a music site, though, after all. Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah. A big thing for me, and a Cocteau Twins page is the perfect place to make this point, isn't the meaning of lyrics or the songs. As if songs are crossword puzzles to be solved. That may be a folksinger crowd thing, I don't know. Lyrics that tell stories and have meaning?? What meaning do these lyrics have, these 'Head Over Heels' Cocteau Twins lyrics? Well, they were written by Elizabeth Frazer, so do have meaning. Some kind of meaning. I don't care. I like the images they give off, the images gave off by the odd discernable phrase. I like the emotion in the actual voice singing the words. So, even if you haven't the faintest idea what the song is about, you have an idea in your own head what it's about - because it's a genuinely emotional performance. The way Elizabeth Frazer sings the lovely 'Sugar Hiccup' for example. It's a happy song, a song with, I don't know, joy, yet a little compassion too. I don't know if that's what it actually is about - quite frankly, I don't care. I just care about the feelings it evokes in me.

    'When Mama Was Moth' and 'Five Ten Fiftyfold' get 'Head Over Heels' off to a suitably goth inspired start, very dark, very ominous. They sound a little more sure of themselves than they did with 'Garlands', though. Moving on, we gets highlights with the speedy 'In Our Angelhood' and the noisy and percussive assault of the appropriately titled 'Musette And Drums'. These are all fine songs. 'Multifoiled' doesn't quite make it for me, 'In The Gold Dust Rust' doesn't give off anything to me, it's just there. The Cocteau Twins were getting better though, overall. There's little doubt about that.

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    Readers Comments

    Tom Burrows hamactor@freeuk.com
    Yeah, "Head Over Heels" was a good album, but I'd like to read your review of "Treasure" which in my opinion was by far their best work.

    Alan Hawkins alanhaw@hotmail.com
    Similar to the previous one - but with much more reverb added to the mix. Sounds like they're playing in the middle of a gigantic warehouse or something - very spacious and echoey sounding! It also seems like they're trying to write more fully developed songs here - with some very off-kilter melodies and more diversity in song tempo (take the fast, punky "In Our Angelhood" and the jazzy "Multifoiled" for example.) Liz's voice is gradually getting stronger too - I guess this was the last time we heard her sing like this before the operatic falsetto crept in. A solid 8/10.


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    Treasure ( 1984 ) more best albums...
    Ivo / Lorelei / Beatrix / Persephone / Pandora / Amelia / Aloysius / Cicely / Otterley / Donimo

    Liz truly invents her own language here. The Cocteau Twins as a group, a group with a new bass player for this set, truly map out their own landscape. They come of age, basically. Now, 'Treasure' arrives to our 21st century ears complete with true, classic early to mid eighties UK indie production values. A thin, slightly tinny sound, basically. It was true of many many an indie release, worn like a badge of honour. If you're arriving to this classic of UK eighties alternative music without prior knowledge of this sound/production value, then you may be put off a little. It was a sound meant to lend authenticity to a recording. It was the exact opposite of charting regulars The Police, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Duran Duran - whomever. The very sound was meant to indicate, here is an alternative. Of course, The Cocteau Twins were even more alternative than most, thanks to the vocal style and the indecipherable lyrics. Still, 'Treasure' has immense beauty and elegance about it. The opening two songs alone mark this out as a classic. 'Ivo' sounds like "he-he-oh" when sung by Elizabeth. The guitars chime amongst the layered texture the music provides. It's very difficult to actually describe. The goth leanings are still there, but also a new found lightness to the feel of the music, a happiness to the sound of the vocals. Sheer joy. Second song 'Lorelei' is especially full of this sound of sheer joy. The vocals sound like "oh, tappy toes" and are full of words that sound like love. Sung in a high whisper, alternated with babble baby speak, sensual babble baby speak - which is quite something to achieve. The bass line and guitar lines are happy and bouncy and soaring, a charming, life-affirming song to hear.

    The album contains a few usual and standard Cocteau Twins songs, but the likes of the goth heart-beat at the centre of 'Persephone' are parts of still good songs. The highlights are very high, the 'filler' is merely good. But, most importantly, nothing is bad. 'Pandora' arrives and hints towards the direction The Cocteau Twins would take next. Beautiful, soft, delicate. Washes of new-age or ambient sounds, almost. Dreamy, ethereal, so very beautiful - because you've got Liz wailing and soaring and making love to your ears over the top of the music. Too true. Song titles? 'Aloysius', 'Cicely', 'Otterley'? The closing track is called 'Donimo', nearly like 'Domino', so this is usual right? This is like a regular group singing songs with lyrics containing cliches about love and romance? Pop songs?? There isn't a single pop song here. The lyrics and vocals sound like they've been beamed down from venus. The music consistently rises to the occasion provided by the vocals. It's some occasion.

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    Readers Comments

    bagu guinness_trail@yahoo.com
    Treasure gets better with each passing year. Standout tracks include Pandora, Amelia and Lorelei. An influential masterpiece. Should be rated higher than 8.5

    Alan Hawkins alanhaw@hotmail.com
    Very dramatic sounding mood music and a huge departure from what came before it - it's hard to believe this is even the same band. The electric guitar seems buried beneath layers of synth or other exotic sounding instruments - and the high-pitched Kate Bush-like operatic vocals seem to have come out of nowhere. Even if they sound like they're taking themselves maybe a little too seriously at times - there's still an impressive variety of moods here - and the production is much cleaner. The guitar jangle in "Aloysius" is georgeous beyond words! check it out. Another 8/10.

    Ivo Aloysius Belgrade
    Somebody said that HOLV can grow tiresome after repetitive listening. Well, I have the same feeling with "Treasure" as well. Even worse: it does sound unfinished and most of the songs are too repetitive and lack dynamics. The best moments: Persephone, Pandora, Aloysius, Lorelei. A major overrate in my opinion is Ivo. But generally, if you remove overdubs there is little left to hope for on this album. I really tried to like this one. It's OK, but to me it fares poorly compared with most of their other albums. Something's missing here. I'd consider their best albums to be Blue Bell Knoll, Head Over Heels and Victorialand. Their EPs also contain incredible moments. Way better song structures than what one may find on this one. I agree with the band. 7.5/10


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    The Pink Opaque 9 ( 1985 )
    The Spangle Maker / Millimillenary / Wax And Wane / Hitherto / Pearly Dewdrops Drops / From The Flagstones / Aikea-Guinea / Lorelei / Pepper Tree / Musette And Drums

    Apparently, this compilation of UK a-sides, b-sides, re-recordings ( witness the stellar remixed 'Wax and Wane' that blows away the original ) and rarities, was aimed at introducing the band to America. It seemed to work, several Cocteau Twins albums proper did chart in the US during the mid to late eighties, early nineties. Well, so my sources tell me. Anyway! This album was also my introduction to the group. Of course, the first song I played was 'Pearly Dewdrops Drops', a much talked about 80s indie classic. I'd never heard it before, never heard much of Cocteau Twins before. So? Well, I fell in love with them instantly. The sound of the vocals, echoed amongst tinny, classic early to mid 80s UK indie production. A sound so genuine, you wonder why nobody does it anymore these days. I for one am fed up of 'production', these days. No imagination, extensive use of studio technology. It all takes away from the music itself. That never used to be the case. I may have mentioned this elsewhere, but a large reason a lot of indie in the 80s sounded the way it did, was nobody had any money! They had talent, the likes of Felt, The Smiths, Cocteau Twins. Talent in spades. Lack of resources can produce something, you stretch yourself. You have to. Not that this really had anything at all to do with 'Pearly Dewdrops Drops' but I had to get this rant in somewhere! Right, done. The music drones and echoes and the guitar is layered. It really is the vocal and the tone of the lyrics that hit home. You end up crying, buckets. Crying over a song where you haven't the faintest idea of what it's actually about! But, you catch the emotion of love. You catch that during 'Millimillenary' as well, mixed with sadness. It's a beautiful song, in any case.

    'The Spangle Maker' sets the tone, all gothic and beautiful and layered guitars and layered primitive, yet utterly effective effects. Oh, and 'Lorelei' is a song to cure any depression, even one as bad as mine generally gets. My girlfriend ( was she even that? ) has dumped me ( at the time of writing, 28/01/04, four weeks standing ?!) yesterday, i'm feeling quite upset. Well, I was last night, you know. I'm piecing myself together. The beauty and love some music gives out can reach me during moments like these. So, don't dismiss 'The Pink Opaque' because it's odds and sods. It never for a second comes across that way. It's seamless and full of magical material.

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    Victorialand 9 ( 1986 )
    Lazy Calm / Fluffy Tufts / Throughtout The Dark Months Of April And May / Whales Tails / Oomingmak / Little Spacey / Feet Like Fins / How To Bring A Blush To The Snow / The Thinner The Air

    The group temporarily didn't have their regular bass player. So, they decide to make their new album by replacing him with a guy playing Saxophone and Tablas. Hence, this calm and otherworldly 'Victorialand' record. Yeah, Cocteau Twins retreat from any semblance of 'rock music' to create something altogether more original instead. Liz beautifully wails over the top of relaxing music created by some means that seems impossible. Music from the heavens and all the other cliches that record critics have sent in Cocteau Twins directions throughout the years. Maybe there's a reason for that, however. Perhaps 'Victorialand' is a big part of that reason. The near seven minute long 'Lazy Calm', for instance. Aptly named as it, well, lazily yet lovingly ebbs into view like a tide caressing in and out, some moonlit night. No, really! 'Fluffy Tufts' just carries on from this, although the vocals of Liz are more prominent here, she switches from the softer cooing to the high pitched wailing ( and I mean that in a nice way ) and sings over the top of herself in the meantime. Layered vocals over delicate and such beautiful music. Nothing at all resembling rock music, remember? 'Throughout The Dark Months Of April And May' sees a guitar pluck and strum. It sees lots of echo and a few other subtle things to create a fairly bare musical landscape. It brings up images of ice, a sun stretching out over that ice. The song title and feel of the music suggest the coming of spring - throughout the bleak icy landscape is a little greenery here and there breaking through. Flowing water melting through the snow some other place in this imaginary landscape that the feel of the song suggests. Appropriately, later on we get a song titled 'How To Bring A Blush To The Snow'. Another song titled 'The Thinner The Air' - yep folks, we're floating here. 'Throughout The Dark Months Of April And May' is so very beautiful, the vocal truly does float. Well, I apologise for not coming up with any more imaginative description. All the while all these things are going on and the likes of 'Whales Tails' does indeed evoke deep oceans and those most beautiful of creatures - we have Elizabeth Frazier not sounding like anything else in the entire known universe. She may as well be communicating with Whales, perhaps that's their language?

    This album creates entirely its own universe and reminds you of nothing else concrete with which to compare it too. Arriving after the stellar 'Treasure', 'Victorialand' cemented The Cocteau Twins reputation and style, forever. They'd vary themselves to an extent, of course - but think of Cocteau Twins and some combination of these two albums spring to mind. Ah, the sheer glory and loveliness of 'Little Spacey' is unsurpassed. The lightness and delicate nature of this music combined with the airy, soaring and delicate ( yet still strong ) vocals combines to form a distinctive sound. It's an album to bring beauty into your life, it's an album to put on late at night and drift off to, with a smile on your face.

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    Readers Comments

    Niall Mcquaid niall_mcquaid@yahoo.ie
    Victorialand is probably my favourite Cocteau Twins record, its up there with Hillage's Rainbow Dome Musick,and anything by Brian Eno . The sound distinctly indie but lush, Frazer's voice sends shivers through my spine, sparse pastoral psychedelia with a beautiful otherworldy jangly guitar sound. a masterpeice of its time, Niall.

    Alan Hawkins alanhaw@hotmail.com
    Shimmering, ambient lullaby tones are all over this one. Takes a while to get into (the pace of the songs might seem seem laboriously slow at first) but stick with it and these soothing washes of reverbed acoustic guitar create something quite lovely and timeless. The gothic gloom of their earlier material has completely disappeared and for the first time - there isn't a single dud track. An easy 9/10.


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    The Moon And The Melodies 6 ( 1986 )
    Sea Swallow Me / Memory Gongs / Why Do You Love Me? / Eyes Are Mosaics / She Will Destroy You / The Ghost Has No Home / Bloody And Blunt / Ooze Out And Away, Onehow

    Not exactly a Cocteau Twins album proper, rather a collaboration with composer Harold Budd. Eight songs here, several of which are entirely instrumental and lean more towards the Harold Budd side of things. Other songs sound like regular Cocteau Twins, albeit not as inspired as anything from 'Treasure' or 'Victorialand'. A few other things sound like interesting, if not quite executed seamlessly, amalgamations of the two. The opening 'Sea, Swallow Me' works completely, carries on from 'Victorialand' and 'Treasure'. Find it somewhere inbetween the two. The other strongest pieces here for me seem to be 'Eyes Are Mosaics', which is full of dreamy instrumentation which Liz does her thing with, vocally. 'She Will Destroy You' ranks as a worthy effort, and in fact, nothing on the album lacks some kind of quality, but there remains a problem. The instrumentals, added to the vocal tunes. The lack of finesse shown by the songs themselves, the lack of too many delicate, delicious touches. The Cocteau Twins elements are, by and large, by rote. Cocteau Twins by numbers. That still means they can soar, aka 'Sea Swallow Me' especially, but over the course of an entire album, not quite enough.

    'The Ghost Has No Home' has a beautiful, very ambient melody courtesy of Budd, presumably, his instrumentation is to the fore. 'Memory Gongs' is even more ambient, seven minutes of a slightly unsettling atmosphere washing over you. Which kind of defeats the object or the point of it all, i'd have thought. So, 'The Moon And The Melodies' lacks the cohesion of the finer Cocteau Twins efforts. In terms of musical performance 'The Moon And The Melodies' is perfectly fine. In terms of material, it's a little hit and miss. An average kind of grade seems appropriate, therefore. All but a hard-core fan could miss this album out and not actually miss anything important in terms of the groups career.

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    Readers Comments

    Shayna saltalamacchia@juno.com
    I love everything you said about the albums. Excellent descriptions!!!


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    Blue Bell Knoll ( 1988 )
    Blue Bell Knoll / Athol-Brose / Carolyn's Fingers / For Phoebe Still A Baby / The Itchy Glowbo Blow / Cico Bluff / Suckling The Mender / Spooning Good Singing Gum / A Kissed Out Red Floatboat / Ella Megablast Burls Forever /

    The usual Cocteau Twins sounds and textures are here, gloriously so. Yet, despite the fact this is definitely another grand Cocteau Twins release, the sense of stagnation is present. Cocteau Twins offer nothing new here and the progress they seemed to be naturally making has seemingly ground to a halt. Yet, the opening title song is beautiful. Third song 'Carolyn's Fingers' is thrilling, Liz Frazer's voice does all sorts of things to send chills all through your spine. She cures a back-ache, she cures a boring and irritatingly crap day at work. Come on, stick on 'Carolyn's Fingers', sorted. Her voice soars, and Robin does his best layering of sounds and guitars and effects thing. A fine moment, indeed. Still, 'Blue Bell Knoll' is for fans only, or for newly converted fans who have yet to hear the groups finest moments. A piece such as 'The Itchy Glowbo Blow' ( even the song titles here seem like self-parody ) sounds glorious enough, yet also seems strangely lacking in conviction. Perhaps simply because 'Blue Bell Knoll' doesnt' set and then hold a listener in a particular place even half as well as 'Treasure' or 'Victorialand' did? Perhaps yes, that is why.

    The closing song is beautiful, really transcendant. Much else of what is here isn't. Yet, you can still lose yourself within 'Blue Bell Knoll'. It just takes a bit more work than before to achieve such a state.

    This will be a short review.

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    Readers Comments

    BDKR bdkr@highsidecafe.com
    To say that there is a hint of stagnation in this album is wrong and completely unfair. Just like each of the preceeding albums, it has a voice of it's own. Blue Bell Knoll is very polished by comparison to releases before it, but don't go thinking that means "commercial". Not at all! Just like all albums before, they manage to take you someplace and keep you there for the duration of the album. The title track of any album sets the tome and it's up to the rest of the tracks to play ball. And in the case of Blue Bell Knoll (the album), the effect is amazing. The place is different then the other albums. The feel is different. Is it as definitive as Treasure? No. As dreamy and ethereal as Victorialand? No. As much of a celebration as Sultitan Itan? No. It's different then the rest of those things and has earned it's very special place (just as all of the others) in my heart.

    Milo D. Cooper milo@miloonline.net
    LOL, Blue Bell Knoll and Treasure are generally considered the Cocteaus' greatest albums, and rightly so. Treasure proclaimed the foundation of their sound, and BBK fleshed it out to what we heard for the remainder of their works. HoLV is a great album, and FCC and MaK are good, but with regard to style and production values/quality, BBK sealed the deal; everything afterward was more of the same (and that's a compliment). Getting back to the "stagnation" nonsense, Fraser's vocal virtuosity and artfulness were never better on display, before or since BBK ("Carolyn's Fingers" is a great example, and of her entire body of work, "Athol Brose" is probably the single most impressive example of her unique vocal technique and talent for melodic invention). Guthrie perfected the clarity and definition of his sound with BBK; the quaintly attractive hindrance of the muted, muddy quality of their pre-BBK recordings was entirely absent on this release, putting the cascading, layere! d guitars and Liz's voice on display as never before. And although "Carolyn's Fingers" (the track you most tout) borrowed its structure significantly from "Orange-Appled," the melodies on all ten of BBK's songs are distinct amongst all of the Twins' works, with no immediately obvious precursors (unless you consider a lack of stylistic abandonment a melodic precursor). BBK is arguably their best album, dude.

    Alan Hawkins alanhaw@hotmail.com
    One of the most beautiful records I've ever heard. Georgeous, ringing guitar tones, unexpected chord changes and a virtual choir of multi-tracked vocal arrangements will make your ears feel like they're floating on air. The slick, major-label production doesn't hurt this band at all, if anything - it enhances their wall-of-sound lushness, with "Athol Brose" and "Suckling The Mender" making me feel like I've discovered the afterlife every time I listen to them. Pure Musical bliss. A perfect 10.

    Pete Barker
    The problem here is that they evolved so much over the span of their first four albums that their last four, this being the first of which, all came out sounding somewhat familiar, and Heaven or Las Vegas is somewhat more interesting in my opinion. It doesn't mean this isn't a beautiful album in it's own right, it just doesn't offer anything new. It sounds like they re-made Treasure, with some enhanced recording techniques. I'd give it a solid 7.

    Steve Cambridge, UK
    i have to disagree with your rating for blue bell knoll-as i believe its their best album and possibly the best album i have ever heard.its uniquely beautiful and represents their peak in album terms.

    Christina G Seattle, WA
    I've spent the last hour reading all the prior C. Twins reviews and you've nailed each and every one! You must be a mind reader cause you literally took everything I have ever thought about the Cocteau Twins and put it down! AMEN somebody gets why I love this band so much!!!However I disagree here - Blue Bell Knoll delivers a near perfect 10!!!! For Phoebe's still a baby is absolutely beautiful, it pulls at my heart strings and makes me think of my two babies (Jack 6 and Dee bug 15). This cd makes my soul feel good about my life but at the same time offers that bittersweet edge. It's a stunning production! Honestly this is definately 1 of my favorite CTwins records/cd (whatever they call it these days).PERFECT 10!!!!

    MalkyLondon
    For me, this is possibly the most enchanting album I've ever heard...in any genre of music...be it classical, rock, folk, soul or pop etc...Although the Cocteaus are completely in their own category. I would give it 10/10 without a seconds hesitation.


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    Heaven Or Las Vegas 9 ( 1990 )
    Cherry Coloured Funk / Pitch The Baby / Iceblink Luck / Fifty Fifty Crown / Heaven Or Las Vegas / I Wear Your Ring / Fotzepolitic / Wolf In The Breast / Road, River And Rail / Frou Frou Foxes In Midsummer

    Their last for indie-label 4AD records, as it turned out, but quite a great way to bow out. Already edging towards seemingly a more commercial sound, although when digging deeper, not really. Let me explain. 'Pearly Dewdrops Drop' was just as commercial a moment as anything from this set, for example. Substitute commercial for melody, and we're walking on more solid ground. 'Heaven Or Las Vegas' is a collection of great melodies. Sometimes slow, sometimes floating through the air in that state between awake and asleep, between dreaming and reality. When you're nodding off and keep striving to awake and there is a moment of ultimate bliss somewhere inbetween. Well, that's the kind of description people expect of peak Cocteau Twins, so I will really try hard not to do that again for the remainder of this review. 'Heaven Or Las Vegas', apart from the perfect pop of 'Iceblink Luck', may initially seem to wash over you. The continuing procession of mid-tempo, layered and quite well produced guitars and keyboards, unobtrusive bass and drums. It's hardly Patti Smith, let's put it that way. As one of the more prominent and approachable Cocteau Twins albums, this is one that non-fans often pick up first. The usual three listens then file away if it hasn't grabbed you won't work here. In fact, that won't work for any Cocteau Twins album. Heaven Or Las Vegas will almost certainly grab you on fourth of fifth listen however, which can't always be said for the majority of their albums. Plus, continued listening beyond that will reveal songs that seemed like filler at first, having something special to offer you.

    'Iceblink Luck' has a catchy pop bassline. It has stellar and shining Liz Frazer vocals and guitar and keyboard sounds effortlessly enhancing the overall whole. It's a pop song and a pop song of some high order. Nearly always sends chills through me and makes me happy. Indeed, the first three songs from this set make for a nearly perfect beginning for the album. 'Cherry Coloured Funk' would be a highlight of any Cocteaus set, the vocals here going deep then going high and heavenly. 'Pitch The Baby' is subtler than either of the songs surrounding it, yet this has much to offer, too. The closing 'Frou Frou Foxes In Midsummer' is in the grand style of the best dreamy Cocteaus epics, 'I Wear Your Ring' joins 'Iceblink Luck' and 'Cherry Coloured Funk' in being utterly transcendent, music that is difficult to imagine even when you're blissfully happy and in love, yet here it is, existing in the world of reality. Oh, sorry, went all off on one again! It's difficult not to. Elizabeth Frazer accompanies herself on vocals and it's truly a beautiful thing.

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    Readers Comments

    David Owens davidowens78@yahoo.com
    I think this is a wonderful album. It was my introduction to the Cocteaus, therefore an introduction to a sound unique in British indie music (and American, come to that). I can't begin to describe how excited I felt upon first listen 2 and a half years ago - it blew me away. Have bought some of their other records since, but none match the quality of this one - not even the "Lullabies to Violaine" compilations released earlier this year. A unique and thrilling sound married to solid songcraft. The closer, Frou-Frou Foxes in the Midsummer Fires, is probably the most dramatic, thrillingly climactic finish to an album I have ever heard. I'd give it 11 out of 10.

    Alan Hawkins alanhaw@hotmail.com
    Another wonderful album by a wonderful band. This one is slightly more commercial sounding than anything they'd done before - with electronic beats bubbling away in the background, some surprisingly concise, catchy pop numbers and very little operatic vocals. The guitar sound is quite bizarre though, Robin has added so much distortion to his guitar that it's taken on a peculiar buzzing sound. Either way - beautiful stuff! 9/10.

    Steve Cambridge, UK
    this is by far their most commercial album-and unlike blue bell knoll,victorialand and treasure this album can become boring. other than those 3 albums -i suggest essential listening should include: tishbite,loves easy tears and aikea-guinea,tranquil eye,summer blink,bluebeard[acoustic],an elan,ice-pulse, alice,from the flag stones,sugar hiccup,spangle maker and pearly dew drops. compared to these songs-the material on heaven or las vegas-is crude and simplistic-i consider it to be their "disco album"if that makes sense? dont get me wrong-i like heaven or las vegas but its far from their best.

    Christina G Seattle, WA
    A 11/10 - I agree with everything your wrote.My fav. songs on this one are1.) Frou-Frou Foxes in Midsummer Fires (IN TOP 10 ALL TIME SONGS)2.) Pitch the Baby (What is she saying? Cause she is making me feel really amazing inside!!!) 3.) Fotzepolitic She gets the "bittersweet" thing about life! If I had a Jesus that could sing to me - this 1 sounds like my type of Jesus! It's spiritual!!)4.) Fifty-Fifty clown (yum)


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    Four Calendar Cafe ( 1993 )
    Know Who You Are At Every Age / Evangeline / Bluebeard / Theft, and Wandering Around Lost / Oil Of Angels / Squeeze-Wax / My Truth / Essence / Summerhead / Pur

    Unusually for a Cocteau's album, the lyrics here tell a story and we can hear them. Naturally, they aren't belted out, Elizabeth Fraser still sounds gloriously magical as only she can. Not every line is discernible, but of all the Cocteau Twins records, perhaps they felt 'Four Calender Cafe' had lyrics that deserved to be heard? Historically, something else altogether is going on. Cocteau Twins were flag bearers for indie music in the sense they were one of the first bands that would pop into a persons head to represent 'indie' music. Many long-term followers of the band genuinely and perhaps misguidedly felt betrayed when Cocteau Twins signed to a major label. Where was I though? Ah, lyrics telling a story. These are sad songs at heart, relationship songs and lonely songs whereby shards of happiness occasionally burst through. The sound of the music isn't radically different from 'Heaven Or Las Vegas' in terms of production, yet this is a far more layered record. Layered vocals and guitars, although relatively simple arrangements. As a set of songs, this set could have been recorded by the Cocteau's circa 1985, have sounded like a 1985 Cocteau Twins LP and been celebrated by all fans, not just newcomers. This is an album, strangely for a Cocteau's record with more commercial production and discernible lyrics, that actually isn't one of their most immediate. It's an album that's arguably less diverse than 'Heaven Or Las Vegas', but that record was a high watermark for the band. It was glorious enough to appeal to anybody. 'Four Calendar Cafe' has a more select appeal. It's not a pop record, despite the production and lyrical content. This is an album that's very challenging in one sense and very loving in another sense. It's a good combination, a combination of beauty and genuine emotion that you wind up sinking into. There are few stand-out cuts, not enough to be honest, yet the album washes over you wonderfully. Like taking a long hot bath in the autumn with the sunlight breaking through the colder air.

    'Bluebeard' has a strong bass line that pins the tune together. There's some beautiful guitar lines, a proper song with hooks and lovely vocals, of course. Vocal hooks? 'Bluebeard' has lots of them. 'Squeeze-Wax' is some kind of fantasy, 'Theft, And Wandering Around Lost' one of those beautiful dreamy mid-tempo Cocteau Twins gems, although it's not as good as similar cuts from 'Heaven Or Las Vegas'. Therein lies the problem with 'Four Calendar Cafe' as a whole. It follows a superior record. Three years is a long time to wait for an inferior record to the previous one and it knocked a lot of steam out of the group. Yet, ignoring individual tunes, the album works very well as a whole. It expresses a range of emotions. It's an album in which the vocalist flies, we expect that from her. The music is played well, yet the mixing and overall sound presented often doesn't impress. There's little clear distinction - too much overdubbing. The band using the studio as an instrument, yet previously without such luxurious studio facilities, the band had to rely more on their own invention. This isn't an inventive album, yet nor is it a bad one. Too much focus was placed on the very fact of discernible lyrics without looking at the wider picture. It's a beautiful sounding record with a few lovely tracks on it, yet it's a sleep-walking record, a dreamy, washing over you record. It doesn't capture the ambient feel as well as 'Victorialand, for instance, because that record didn't have this excess of layers or indistinct washes of instrumentation. Yet, despite all the faults this album has, it still works. It still retains that Cocteau Twins magic, it floats and draws you in for repeated listens.

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    Readers Comments

    Christina G Seattle, WA
    It was spring 1994 I was barely 19 and I was heading back from Seattle to my then hometown of Aberdeen. Anyway, my friend Alan Baud was playing a mixed tape (yeah no burning back then)...anyway, slight pause there, sorry, anyway this song came on and I fell ini love with it so I asked Alan what the song was and who sang it. He said Bluebeard - Cocteau Twins!!This is how I found what would turn out to be a lifelong treasured love affair with the best Indie band, heck best freaking band EVER!Back at 19 I had a new baby and I immediately started collecting every CD they had out even the rare singles! Man oh man what a love affair it's been - going on nearly two decades!To this day nobody has touched them - in my nearly twenty years of listening I have to to replace them as #1 ALL TIME.She has every emotion for every emotion and she can put it all together in a blender, blend it and give you her ESSENCE!!!


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    Milk And Kisses 8 ( 1996 )
    Violaine / Serpentskirt / Tishbite / Half-Gifts / Calfskin Smack / Rilkean Heart / Ups / Eperdu / Treasure Hiding / Seekers Who Are Lovers

    Beautiful meandering, oh boy. Cocteau Twins farewell album, although not designed as such, saw them hopelessly out of fashion with the britpop of the day and becoming increasingly irrelevant. 'Milk And Kisses' received some critiscm for not moving Cocteau Twins forwards and I can see that. There are no tricks here but this is a consistently strong, dreamy LP of accomplished ambient pop. In typical Cocteaus fasion, something like 'Seekers Who Are Lovers' comes out trumps despite 'god in my mouth mumble, mumble, mumble' for a lyric. The backing vocals wail like heavenly angels and Liz Fraser sounds like her heart is falling apart. It's a gorgeous, stunning composition. 'Rilkean Heart' is average Cocteau Twins mid-tempo ambient dream. Average Cocteaus is still ahead of the game when compared to most bands, so I like this a great deal. The opening 'Violaine' isn't as dramatic as the best Cocteau Twins album openers, but does indeed still set the scene with it's ambient footprint. The Cocteaus had inspired, along with My Bloody Valentine, the entire shoegazing scene, although even that had died a death by 1996, so what chance did 'Milk And Kisses' really have?

    The first four tracks on the LP are all extremely strong, 'Serpentskirt' sounding like something from 1983 but then, who else ever really sounded exactly like the Cocteau Twins in the first place? They always did only ever occupy their own lovely little flying balloon, floating wonderfully through the nighttime sky. 'Serpentskirt' is simplicity in itself if you try and pick it apart. A single guitat figure, an ever so simply bass line and keyboards filling out the sound alongside echo and suspension. Liz Fraser utterly makes the song, soaring beautifully under the moonlit stars. 'Tishbite' has interweaving melodies but again, is based on simplicity despite the wash of soft melodic sound. It also has a strong pop hook in the chorus. 'Half-Gifts' joins 'Seekers Who Are Lovers' as my favourite tune on the LP, a little fairground ride in space. No one else is there and you float through the air in the dark, twinkles and glints of light catch the corner of your eye. As magical as can be. It's a ride and gets you right in the song so the song suddenly becomes your surroundings. Only the Cocteau Twins could do this and I miss them.

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    Readers Comments

    Pete Barker
    I'm surprised no one has commented on this one yet. This is the most underrated Cocteau Twins album along with Garlands. Even though these guys ran out of new tricks long before this album, this is an absolutely beautiful compilation of songs and bowing out for a great band. Blows away Four-Calender Cafe. 8.5/10

    Alex Dublin
    I put off buying this album until long after its initial release. I was expecting Cocteaus on auto-pilot but ended up pleasantly surprised. True it doesn't break any new ground but the tracks are consistently good from start to finish- it's easily one of the most underrated albums of the nineties. Just listen to, "Seekers Who Are Lovers"- what a fitting Swan Song to such an illustrious carreer. I guess it didn't sound fashionable at the time and hence all the lukewarm reviews. But don't be fooled. This is up there with "Heaven Or Las Vegas" and "Treasure" as one of the bands best records.


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    this page last updated 23/08/15


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