AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #310: COCTEAU TWINS (2)

It was back in October 2018 that Swedish Herring Accident offered up an ICA (#195) by Cocteau Twins.

It was incredibly well received, with all sorts of complimentary comments left behind, including observations on the decision by SHA to:-

“….steer away from some of the more dissonant early stuff – not because it isn’t great, but because I wanted to create an album with a single sound, rather than a variety pack compilation. An album that captures the unmistakable mellifluous Cocteau Twins sensation that hovers between fluffy and deeply meaningful.”

The track list was:-

SIDE 1

Lazy Calm
Love’s Easy Tears
Carolyn’s Fingers
In Our Angelhood
Lorelei

SIDE 2

Bluebeard
Sultitan Itan
Heaven or Las Vegas
Pur
A Kissed-Our Red Floatboat

Echorich, as part of his contribution in the comments section said:-

What keeps me from attempting compiling a CT ICA has always been just how difficult I find it to discuss the many different sounds of the band and then express how I feel about them. Cocteau Twins were the definition of complex and discussing them is the same…

I fully agree with our esteemed friend from Florida, via NYC. As such, I’m not going to offer too much in the way of words today, other than some basic factual info, and hope that this stab at an ICA, with ten completely different tracks, finds as much favour with you all as the original.  I make no apologies that much of its content come from what I consider their most imperial phase, from 82-84.

SIDE A

1. Hazel (Peel Session)

Hazel was originally recorded as part of the 12″ release of the Peppermint Pig EP (1983) the last of the material to feature original bassist Will Heggie.  The EP was produced by Alan Rankine who had not long taken his leave of Associates, and while there was a fair bit of advance excitement about the partnership, the results left Robin Guthrie and Liz Fraser quite deflated.

The interesting thing is that around the same time as they had been in the studio, the trio recorded what was their second Peel Session, choosing to perform a completely different take on Hazel, one that is about 90 seconds longer and, unusually for any Peel Session track by any singer or band, features a fade-in intro.  It would later be included on an extended version of the debut album, Garlands, when it was first issued on CD in the late 80s.

2. Ivo

The opening track from Treasure (1984), an album much loved by fans and critics, but one which Robin Guthrie and Simon Raymonde in particular have been quite scathing of in subsequent years.  And therein is the dilemma at the very heart of the complexity referred to above by Echorich….an album lauded by almost everyone except those involved in its creative side.  I wouldn’t want to argue with Robin or Simon….I’d just sit in awe that I was in their company, politely nodding my head, while under my breath I’d be whispering to myself that they were wrong.

3. Squeeze-Wax

From Four-Calendar Cafe (1993).   In which Cocteau Twins make a song that would sit just about perfectly on an album by The Sundays.

4. Pearly-Dewdrops Drop

I wrote about this song on the blog last May, describing it as perhaps the most extraordinary piece of music to have ever come out of Scotland and become a hit single when it reached #29 in May 1984. There’s nothing else to addd.

5. Song To The Siren

Is it cheating to include this? I don’t think so.  It may have been released by 4AD as a recording by This Mortal Coil in September 1983, but we all know that this haunting, mesmerising and beguiling take on a song originally written and recorded by Tim Buckley, is really Robin and Liz at the very peak of their powers.

SIDE B

1. When Mama Was Moth

Head Over Heels (1983) was recorded after Will Heggie left, but before Simon Raymonde joined.  It is my favourite Cocteau Twins album, and this is its opening track. I associate it with so many different and incredibly happy events of that particular time in my life, not least taking the decision to move out of the parental home as I started the third year at University, and finding myself sharing a flat with two of the most knowledgable music fans you could ever wish to know.  It was through the expensive stereo of one of those flatmates that I first heard the album and that experience will stay with me forever….at long last I ‘got’ Cocteau Twins.

2. Iceblink Luck

Seven years later and the sound of Cocteau Twins is quite different on Heaven Or Las Vegas (1990), an album that is as outstanding as Head Over Heels, but in so many different ways.  I’ve read somewhere that it borders on radio-friendly, and while that might be the case these days with the proliferation of digital radio stations catering for all sorts of tastes, you would have been hard pushed in 1990, outside of evening broadcasts on Radio 1, to ever hear anything coming out of your radio here in the UK.   Iceblink Luck fills the floor when it gets aired at the indie-disco myself and Aldo have been known to frequent.

3. Feathers Oar-Blades

Right back to the early days.  The opening track on the Lullabies EP, released in late 1982, just a few weeks after debut album Garlands.  I truly understand the thinking behind SHA’s original ICA, and he did curate something quite special and memorable, but concentrating on creating an album with a single-sound meant he ‘disqualified’ himself from considering a song such as this.  The opening few notes of this remind me of Associates early period, which is probably why folk thought it would be a good idea to being in Alan Rankine on production duties.

4. Pandora

Another from Treasure (1984).   This isn’t among my all-time favourites by Cocteau Twins, but I really needed the ICA to have a complete contrast between what came before this and what follows and closes things.

5. Musette and Drums

If told that I could only ever hear one more track by Cocteau Twins before their music was denied to me for all time, it would be the closing track from Head Over Heels.  Don’t ask me to explain or justify myself…..it’s the way of my world.

Looking back at the list of songs, I’m happy with what I’ve come up, especially as there were some from SHA that I’d likely have made room for.  But there are so many I regret not including.

JC

11 thoughts on “AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #310: COCTEAU TWINS (2)

  1. Ooft! What an ICA. The smile on my face! As broad as you want to paint it – and then some. Probably my favourite band of all time, although there was a time that The Smiths held that crown.

    I can’t fault any of these tracks. Hazel, as an opener, will always peak my interest. It us up there with my favourite tracks and one I’d play at indie type discos all those years ago…

    Cocteau Twins caught me at a time I was finding my ‘own’ bands rather being introduced to a band by someone else and I think that’s perhaps why they are so special. They were one of a few bands that on release day I’d be found standing outside Listen Records just after 9am (they opened at 10am) trying not to look conspicuous. If Listen didn’t have it then the hunt was on at the more expensive HMV or the often extortionate Virgin (who annoyingly tended to have most releases on release day).

    I recently, and very seriously, thought of selling all of my vinyl including Cocteau Twins – in the end, while I did sell some things I wouldn’t miss (rare items by other bands that I never or rarely played) – the process of going through the vinyl was an emotional one. It’s staying with me for now.

    The Cocteau Twins sound changed remarkably throughout their career, very much like my much-loved Cranes, and I believe the Cocteau Twins became mildly radio friendly, posthumously.

    What a fantastic treat! I’m going to stop now.

  2. Fantastic ICA with an equally fantastic band. I don’t think I would ever be able to pick out 10 tracks, Cocteau Twins and the somewhat connected The Associates are my two favourite bands of all times.
    Great start to this sunny day, thanks JC!

  3. Pearly is obviously magnificent and maybe their best work, although its b-side The Spanglemaker runs it close. The TMC cover of Another Day by Roy Harper is also brilliant. I’d have to give Donimo and From The Flagstones secure places in any top 5. Tricky innit?

  4. I’ll also mention the title to “Heaven Or Las Vegas” as being particularly potent for me since a trip to Las Vegas for a friend’s marriage in 1996 proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that if Hell actually existed, it was surely Las Vegas! How I wish I had never traded off my Cocteau Twins records when re-purchasing them on CD. WHAT WAS I THINKING?!

  5. Great post, thank you JC. Tomorrow is now a CT day. I still have all the Cocteau’s vinyl releases, apart from the first one (sorry for mentioning that post punk monk 🙂 )

  6. Just a wonderful selection JC!.
    Ivo is among my favorite Cocteau Twins songs. It conjures visions of mystical, yet tangible places that you’re sure must exist and thus you long to explore.

    Iceblink Luck is CT cruising in the stratosphere of their own making. By the time Heaven Or Las Vegas came out, an entire genre was built on the foundations of their earliest and continued work. Iceblink Luck proves that the progenitor was still a generator.

    It only took the first half minute of When Mama Was Moth for me to pick up Head Over Heels out of the bin at Metro Records and add it to the top of the pile of albums I was blowing my “Saturday Money” on. It’s an epic accomplished in 3:06.

  7. Sigh, a beautiful, brilliant ICA, JC, and one I’ve savoured in the past couple of days. Thanks also for giving me a reason to revisit and recreate the previous ICA, a set of matching majesty. I’d agree with Chaval’s other suggestions (ICA #3 coming soon?), especially From The Flagstones, a highlight of my first ever CT purchase, the Sunburst And Snowblind EP. Good work, sir.

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