I’m currently ploughing my way through a really enjoyable book entitled Facing the Other Way, written by Martin Aston. It’s a really well-written account of the birth and growth of the highly respected and critically acclaimed indie label 4AD and already, about halfway through, I’ve learned a great deal about the music and the people involved in all aspects of the organisation.

I’ll get round to penning a full review in due course but for now would like to offer a few words on what I consider to be my favourite ever album to come out on 4AD.

The thing is, I’ve never really gotten into Cocteau Twins to any great depth and consider myself to be more of an admirer than a fan – and even then, if I listen to anything beyond about an hour’s worth of their music I get bored. Aside that is from Head Over Heels which I can listen to back-to-back quite happily.

This record forms a large part of the soundtrack to my carefree student days, particularly my first year living away from home. There were three of us who shared a flat and all of us, if truth be told, were music snobs. One of my flatmates was a huge fan of Cocteau Twins from the outset and tried hard to convince everyone of their merits. It wasn’t that I didn’t like them, but I didn’t quite get it. By late 1983 there had been one album and 2 EPs, all having the occasional track worth listening to but only in small doses. It certainly wasn’t music for going out to or for putting on if you wanted to continue the party. It was all a bit gloomy which was reinforced by my seeing them at Night Moves in Glasgow at a gig early on their career as support to The Fall.

At first listen, Head Over Heels didn’t seem too radical a departure. But on second and third listens, I began to hear things a wee bit differently – in particular the astonishing effects that Robin Guthrie had added to his guitar work. It was an album where a drum machine rather than a real sticksman seemed like a stroke of genius.

Before too long, this became my ‘go-to’ record when I just wanted to wind down after a hard night’s dancing and drinking. Maybe subconsciously I wanted its dream-like nature to settle me down quickly and peacefully within the land of nod…..that and the fact that a girl I was nuts about loved the record and it was a way of getting to talk to her without feeling too much of a dick.

Nothing came of my efforts to get to know said girl any better but I’m happy to say that didn’t lessen my fondness for this record. But having been drawn-in by the guitars, I was soon a convert to the vocals of Elizabeth Fraser. This is singing like nothing else on planet indie-pop. It’s just, for the most part, a series of noises and sounds and not actual words but they are the perfect match for the instrumentation. And in LP closer Musette and Drums you will find something that I consider truly special and up there among my favourite pieces of music of all time.

The thing is, Mrs Villain has never taken to Cocteau Twins – indeed it would be accurate to state that she hasn’t ever liked anything which features Ms Fraser on vocals – and so it’s a record that I had rarely played since 1990 when we first moved in together. But a few years back, just as I was approaching the age of 50, I began to compile a list of my favourite 50 LPs of all time and having included Head Over Heels on the long list I took it out of its sleeve for a spin and re-discovered it again, delighted that it remained every bit as special as I had remembered. I’ve never owned the LP on CD so the songs to accompany today’s words are from the 32-year old vinyl, scratches, jumps, bumps, hisses and all.

mp3 : Cocteau Twins – When Mama Was Moth
mp3 : Cocteau Twins – Five Ten Fiftyfold
mp3 : Cocteau Twins – Sugar Hiccup
mp3 : Cocteau Twins – The Tinderbox (of a Heart)
mp3 : Cocteau Twins – Musette and Drums



  1. in my world Cocteau Twins is one of the greatest bands of all time. and the voice of Liz i rank as one of the top 3 female voices of all time. exactly the dreamy part is what i fell for from the start, the angelish, elvish maybe, wordless singing adds wonderfully to the dreamscape of CT’s music. i still treasure (!) and play all my CT vinyl, rarely a week without something played.

  2. Simply wonderful. I had a friend, well acquaintance is more accurate I suppose, who spent an afternoon trying to convince me that Treasure was a better album than Head Over Heels. Needless to say, we had to agree to disagree in the end. Treasure was a great album too, but I was right. I love Elizabeth Fraser’s voice, her appearances with This Mortal Coil, Massive Attack and Felt were all electrifying too.

  3. Treasure and Heaven or Las Vegas always seem to get mentioned as the best examples of Cocteau Twins. I am firmly in the Head Over Heels camp. To me this earlier period allso including the Sunburst and Snowblind EP featuring From The Flagstones and the Pearly Dewdrops Drops EP were the real treasure, if you pardon the pun. True, this was dark but I have a taste for a bit of darkness in my music. The melodies when they reveal themselves, though, are golden, gorgeous and become more insistent with every passing listen. I love this record, Mussette and Drums is incendiary and an obvious highlight but After the Gold Dust Rush is amazing, Multifoiled is glorious and, well to be honest, I am head over heels for this whole record. And also for Liz, love her vocals, check her out on this mortal coils Song to the Siren also , the Felt Primative Painters single. Other Cocteaus highlights include Tiny Dynamine, Treasure, Peppermint Pig, Aikea Guinea. But much as I like these records nothing is quite as dark, as dramatic and as beautiful as this.

  4. Had never heard of Cocteau Twins until I first got to the UK in Summer 1984. The Pearly Dewdrops and Spangle Maker EPs had come out not long before, and I absolutely didn’t know what to make of the music — no points of reference, very little to compare it to. Banshees influence on the surface, maybe, but it was a truly different thing. Couldn’t understand a word either, but I loved Fraser’s voice and still love it. This was an exciting time for music; post-punk going in all directions. Still sounds fresh today.

  5. Bought this back in the day JC. Not really appreciated it in till recently with purchase of turntable. Bought reissue of the pink opaque on vinyl. Immense is an understatement!!!

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