Thursday, 30 May 2013

Cocteau Twins - Garlands (1982)

Behold This Thine Confusion, one of the lesser known episodes of Star Trek - and it shouldn't need stating that I'm referring here to the proper version with William Shatner - featured a fairly unusual story line in which members of Joy Division and Siouxsie & the Banshees were accidentally combined in a transporter accident, so becoming fused into a composite group called Siouxsie & the Division, and enjoying brief Romulan chart success with their Terrifying Marble Statue album, much to Scotty's bemusement. The even lesser known follow up episode saw the Enterprise flown backwards around the sun, thus achieving time-travel and stranding the unfortunate Siouxsie & the Division upon a remote pacific island in the late twentieth century whereupon they found themselves obliged to play their gloomy repertoire of spooky songs with titles like Cobweb Statement and It is a Ghost to the bewildered natives of that island, much to Spock's bemusement. Many years later, long after Siouxsie Curtis and the other hybrids had escaped on a raft constructed by inflating spent condoms that had been washed up on the shore over the years, the islanders continued to perform something which sort of sounded a bit like the music of those strangely unhappy sky Gods who had once walked amongst them, and that's how the Cocteau Twins came to be, or rather just Cocteau Twins without the definite article, because the would seem more prosaic and might imply that they were just a band rather than a mysterious force.

Four million years ago, back in the 1980s, I had records by both Joy Division and Siouxsie & the Banshees, but somehow the Cocteau Twins never quite found their way into my collection. They sounded interesting, moody and reasonably mysterious, but I just couldn't  close that gap and would always end up buying Devo albums instead. At one point I was in a band with my friend Carl. We were called The Dovers and amongst the thousands of songs we turded out on a daily basis was one entitled Flippy Floppy Flaps which I suspect came about when we both realised just why neither of us owned any Cocteau Twins albums. As a musical cake factory, their sparkly shanties sounded nice enough, but there was something about the complete lack of content that got on my tits. It all struck me as somewhat po-faced.

I picked up Garlands having realised I never could quite get the bassline of Wax and Wane out of my head, and because it was six dollars, and through sheer curiosity; and it's strange listening to this thing in the year 2013, this album I almost certainly recall as being one of the reputedly most something-or-other things ever recorded, a real milestone that you must own, and the disc that taught a thousand boys and girls to express their innermost selves by wearing black clothes and back-combing their hair. It's always a pleasure to hear the mighty Roland TR-606 drum machine doing its thing but Jesus - how they ever managed to get a whole album out of this: a ton of digital reverb, a carrier bag full of those effects pedals that every fucker and his milkman used in the eighties, and a woman making squeaking noises for half an hour: I'm not saying it's terrible or even lacking in some sort of vision - albeit not a terribly adventurous vision - but Lordy it sounds so thin it makes you nostalgic for Def Leppard.

By rights, they really should have named the band Roland Effects Pedal Demonstration Team but I suppose that doesn't sound quite so waify or romantic.

No wonder Spock thought they were rubbish.

1 comment:

  1. I was always more interested in their lyrics, which in every single bleedin' song went something like "Fnaaa paa la show so flee, pataa pataa pataa, sleee squee flaaa mo flaa me ..."

    Of course, they claimed some bollocks about palimpsests of sound blah blah blah but what it all came down to is "the singer can sing but has fuck all to say." Warble warble warble.