Cocteau Twins – Head Over Heels / The Spangle Maker

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Cocteau Twins – Head Over Heels (1983)

Answered prayers from yr Goddess bleeding over elastic bass-lines, guitar screeches and scratches, and the loud boom of drums; dream pop over post-punk resulting in a deeply unique, influential and immersive experience and a top 5 Cocteau Twins album. Even a second-tier track like “Multifoiled”, with Fraser scatting a little and a cabaret piano, strikes its own little territory because of Guthrie’s drums – name another song that sounds like it. The main draw, is of course, “Sugar Hiccup”, a title that essentially describes their sound if you had to boil it down to two words and didn’t want to use the words “Goddess-like” for fear of sounding too hyperbolic; works perfectly for introducing the band too, given that it looks ahead to stuff afterwards, but, as mentioned, with louder drums. But every song offers a detail worth savouring: the horrifying pummel of the drums on opener “When Mama Was Moth”, suggesting something dark lurking in the waters; the bass-line of “Five Ten Fiftyfold” strong enough to push Fraser off the cliff; the “Like he said he would” hook of “In Our Angelhood” (delivered in breakneck speeds but clear as day). Surprising elements too, usually buried a little lower in the mix so the song distinguishes itself without throwing the album’s sound off: saxophone in “Five Ten Fiftyfold” (such a subtle texture!), an acoustic guitar in “In the Gold Dust Rush” (which, combined with the hook achieves the title) (plus an “Be My Baby”-beat-sporting intro), circular steel drums on “The Tinderbox (of a Heart).” In an alternative universe, they never shed this darkness and delivered just as excellent a discography.

A-

Cocteau Twins – The Spangle Maker EP (1984)

Let the record show that I was going to review Another Green World to cap off the productive past few days, but what an incredibly daunting task to try and put that album’s magic and colour into something as sometimes useless as words. Same goes with trying to describe the effect the Elizabeth Fraser has on me when She sings “His part of the plan, it hadn’t gone, and there you are / It scattered and didn’t bond, and there you are” in the climax of “The Spangle Maker”; everything appropriately thickening and the drums smacking harder (as if they didn’t before). It’s ambiguous, yes (my take: the “it” in “it scattered and didn’t bond” is about a relationship), but it’s clear that despite the negatives, the other person remains (“There you are” was the only thing I understood without a lyric sheet). Contrasted to when Fraser whistles in a “Broke and winded” state, the other is no longer there (“And there you hide”). The other two tracks are sweeter, if not straighter: “Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops” has a more direct hook (released as the a-side in a redundant single). And “Pepper-Tree” contains a counter-pointing vocal waft and guitar dancing around each other; the occasional ominous bass pushing everything along.

A transitional EP between Head Over Heels, their best most post-punk album, and the even-better (!) Treasure. Critics usually use that word to mean a weaker record if still worthy of your attention, but that’s not always so.

A+

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