It's a stretch to say we have the Sex Pistols to thank for the Cocteau Twins, but the Cocteaus' first album is one of the most individual things to emerge from the post-punk era. Recorded on a budget of peanuts in a few days, there's great promise here of things to come, and a lot of fine material in itself. Their distinct sound comes from Robin Guthrie's grinding guitar fuzz and Liz Fraser's unique vocals, set against each other in a piercing discord. Fraser's syllable-soup provides a confident bright-eyed lead, while not as extravagantly other-worldly and multi-layered as in later works. Her only vocal gymnastic gimmick here is the occasional wobbly yodel. The album's lo-fi feel is cemented by the tinny drum machine and gothic bass strumming.
Punchy songs like "Wax and Wane" and "Blood Bitch" are as in-your-face as anything with lyrics in a non-existent language can be. "Shallow Then Halo" has a particularly beautiful intimate tune and lyrical idea. The track "Garlands" is pure proto-goth. Admittedly towards the end of the album, some of the songwriting isn't up to scratch, but this is still a worthy document of the Cocteaus' early sound.
September 19, 2004