on 3 February 2004
It seems funny but before this album the world had no sound like the cocteau twins - this album transformed the independent music landscape and created a new genre based on beautiful, ethereal soundscapes, backed by sinewy 3/4 drum patterns and haunting chiming guitar refrains. But that was only the start - Liz Fraser's gorgeous, haunting and evocative voice was the defining and compelling instrument which set the Cocteau's apart - at once melancholy yet uplifting, caressing yet plaintive, articulate yet mysterious - and above all simply the most beatiful voice you will ever hear. Influences from Bulgarian folk singers, Billie Holliday and even opera can be heard but nothing prepares you for it's sheer delight. This, the Cocteau's first album with their more accessible sound provides ten tracks which, in my opinion, represent the best of a long and very productive career. If you are new to the Twins it's the perfect start - despite being nearly 17 years old - if this is missing from you collection then - remedy that anomaly now. One of the best albums I have ever - and probably will ever hear - pure undiluted bliss. Enjoy
on 14 May 2006
This review is the starting point of a journey to find my music and marks the start of a sporadic series of reviews to try and chart this journey and hopefully provide some pointers on the way. Not the first record I bought (anyone who says a record this good is the first record they bought is obviously a liar - mine... 'Remember your a Womble' aged 7) but the first record I bought that felt truly unique, that I felt was mine, and it instilled a need from thereon to find music that did the same.
I first saw the Cocteau Twins on The Tube perform what is still for me the defining track - 'Musette and Drums' and was awestruck. It sounded like music from another world - Liz's voice was becoming her own and Robin Guthrie was finding the sound that would become a cornerstone of my collection.
The nostalgic in me has given this album 5 stars, looking dispassionately at it now it is probably only a 4 star record, but to forget the passion I had then and still do (Lullabies to Violaine made sure of that - 'Sugar Hiccup' especially) would be to forget what made the Cocteau Twins then and now a special band. They would go on from here to make their masterpieces, for me Treasure and Victorialand plus the EPs in-between, but this is as much a landmark for me as for them and is essential.
From this point on the label 4ad could do little wrong - this was a period when you could buy a new 4ad release without even hearing it and be guaranteed something special (not only the record either, with Vaughan Oliver and 23 envelope producing some of the most beautiful artwork to grace a sleeve). Soon after they would release the much coveted This Mortal Coil album 'It'll End in Tears' which again featured Liz on 'Song to the Siren' - another remarkable performance on a remarkable record.
However I'm going to skip labels from here to another that could be relied upon for the same combination of outstanding music and beautiful artwork - that of Factory records, Peter Saville and most importantly The Durutti Column with 'Return of...' - another pivotal release from the criminally underated Vini Reilly.
on 12 August 2003
Surprised there are no reviews of this albumn already since in my opinion it is the very best example of the Cocteau's unique style. Incredibly spacey and atmospheric but also including what I can only describe as "cathedrals" of sound (Musette and Drums being in my all time top ten due to the power, drama and sheer ecstatic feeling of joy I still feel when listening to it; arms flailing around to the drum beats and "singing along" to the word sounds of Liz Fraser's vocals). Later Cocteau albumns became a little on the "twittery" side. This one comes from the heart.
on 2 November 2009
This was the first Cocteaus album I bought, albeit a couple of years after it was released. Every now and then (not all that often), John Peel would play a piece of music that I immediately liked and felt compelled to buy as soon as possible - and Musette and Drums sounded like nothing I had ever heard before. I had been vaguely aware of their existence prior to this through hearing (with bafflement) Pearly Dewdrops' Drops on the radio when it was a minor hit (peaking at 29, their biggest hit so my Guinness book sez). The cover art is gorgeous (so much more so in full-sized vinyl) and the plastic within did not disappoint. Few of their albums are as consistent as this from start to finish.
Opening track When Mother Was Moth sets the tone, with a slow drum machine drenched in improbable amounts of reverberation and Liz Frazer cooing strange nothings over the top. The effect is either magical (if you're a fan) or possibly very dated indeed if you're hearing it for the first time in 2009. In between this and the closing Musette and Drums is a sequence of often brilliant tunes. Some, like the single Sugar Hiccup are sedate and almost poppy, whilst the fabulously titled Glass Candle Grenades and Tinderbox of a Heart are of the more swirly and adventurous variety. There is not one duff track on the whole LP, and it all culminates in the simply incredible Musette and Drums. A looping, dramatic guitar phrase underpins one of Liz Frazer's strongest vocal performances on a killer melody. Robin Guthrie tops even this with a rare screaming guitar solo that sounds like nothing else I've ever heard before or since - barely a recognisably melodic note in it, yet full of intense drama, angst and melancholy. It still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
Where the album loses a star (and only by comparison with their other work) is in the production, which sounds thin and harsh in places. Recording as a duo, they had yet to completely find their sound - it took the arrival of Simon Raymonde on bass to round it out. The drum machine is also occasionally plodding and metallic, though it might be churlish to say so given that it was 1983 - but to 21st century ears it will certainly sound dated. Probably not the best album for someone new to the band - but one that is very rewarding after a few listens. Get it maybe third or fourth (I'm aiming to write a review of all of them, oh yes).... But definitely get it.
on 30 August 2010
The Cocteau Twins' vocalist Elizabeth Frazer is one of the most influential vocalists in rock history, and the band that she fronted was at the forefront of one of the many psychedelic-rock genre offshoots - 'dream-pop'. Frazer consciously appropriated the voice as an instrumental appendage. The Cocteau Twin's melodies are sublime which Frazer delivers by way of an ethereal and other-wordly contralto. Frazer's 'voice instrument' is wrapped in layer upon layer of Robin Guthrie's shimmering oneiric guitar and keyboard lines.
'Head Over Heels' (1983) blends celestial singalonds, middle-eastern psalms, majestic spirituals, vibrant melismas, tinkling guitars and neo-classical keyboards. Cocteau Twins' songs exhibited the levity and grace of madrigals but also the gloom and pomp of requiems. The dream-pop of the Cocteau Twins shares the contemplative quality and the passion for textures with 'shoegazing' bands like 'Slowdive' and 'My Bloody Valentine', but diverges from this genre in terms of both narrative development and emotional intensity.
'Head Over Heels' is not only one of the key albums of the 1980s but remains one of the seminal recordings of the last quarter century.
on 2 September 2003
I would have to say that I listen to this album about as much as my Chameleons UK and Big Country albums (all the damned time). The sound is hard to describe, and not neccessarily comparable to anything else I've heard, new or old. It's pretty fair to say that this album has a "haunting" type of sound, Frazer's strong,unique, sometimes incoherent and spooky sounding vocal style, is definately first rate. The guitars are worth a praise as well, being very distinctive in providing a echoing, drawn out, kind of sound, and the thick pounding drums tops off the wonderful formula. The tracks on this album definately contain an atmosphere all its own, especially songs like,The tinderbox (of a heart), My Love Paramour, and Musette and Drums. So....if you're like me and you don't really fancy the overdone happy music, give this album a listen, and make it part of you're lifes soundtrack.
on 20 October 2005
The Smiths, the Bunnymen, New Order - these 80s' indie heroes are frequently cited as influences by today's bands, but the Cocteau Twins? No one ever mentions 'em. There is a reason for this of course. Liz Frazer's astonishing vocals and Robin Guthrie's miraculous guitar sounds are far harder to replicate.
Many Cocteaus' fans view 'Treasure' as their creative high-water mark, but I always preferred this harder, rockier record. What I particularly love about this album is that it showed that it was possible to make BIG music without it getting all stadium-y and Simple Minds. Who would've thought that drum machines could've BOOMED so.
The opening track, 'When Mama Was Moth', plunges you immediately into the Cocteaus' strange and eerie netherworld, with its huge swashes of sound and unfathomable lyrics. 'Sugar Hiccup' is especially fine, showcasing Frazer's vocals and Guthrie's expansive guitar work.
Elsewhere we have the frantic stomp of 'Glass Candle Grenades', the irresistible drive of 'In Our Angelhood' and the album's closer, 'Musette And Drums,' which is one of those songs that just makes you want to lie back and HOWL!! In the words of massive fan, John Peel, truly "one that will change yer life." One critic at the time described the guitars on 'Musette...' as "sounding like a giant crying inside a mausoleum." Hyperbole, perhaps, but if you've never heard it before, it's a track to make you fall 'head over heels' in love with them.
on 16 July 2009
this album is slightly lacking from the normal standards expected from the cocteaus-like moon and the melodies it only gets 4 stars-as it was their 2nd album they were still practising and refining their craft-it contains some lovely songs but some less than perfect tracks too
sugar hiccup was the first ever song i hear by the cocteaus in 1983 or there abouts at the same time as the song to the siren-which was a collaboration with modern english i think and this mortal coil -poss dead can dance too-im not sure anyway there a 3 songs on that album featuring the cocteaus-16 days/gathering dust/16 days reprise and song to the siren-which were also released on an ep-which is a classic and wonderful -perfect in fact-however this album by the cocteaus alone -is less perfect than that ep by this mortal coil-it does as i said contain some lovely and interesting songs and contains sugar hiccup the first ever song i heard by the cocteaus-and a song i still love to this day-26 yrs later-my younger g/f also loves sugar hiccup-as u will also i guarentee it if u hear it or buy this album-its slightly punkier/rockier/more gothic and more aggressive than the albums that followed and slightly less perfect too-i think its on a par with moon and the melodies -but still an essential buy [smile] however its the album i play least by the cocteaus personally
on 23 June 2006
This is my favorite Cocteau Twins album, from the eerie opening track, When Mama Was Moth a wall of sound draws you in. The whole album has an atmosphere that only the Twins knew how to create. Who cares if Liz's vocals were indecipherable, it added to the magic of it all. What a loss it is that Liz Fraser no longer makes music, we can live in hope I suppose!
on 10 June 2008
`Head Over Heels' marks quite a musical departure for Cocteau Twins from their debut album and whilst some of the sparse, almost manic intensity of `Garland's sound remains in tracks like `In Our Angelhood', this is a richer, more satisfying sounding record.
On songs like `Sugar Hiccup' and `In the Gold Dust Rush' the sound soars and is richly embellished with lush guitar lines and swooping synth orchestrations over programmed drum beats. This is the beginning of the band's trademark ethereal lushness which was employed to such wonderful effect on their records between 1984-1988, their golden period in my opinion.
As ever, Liz Fraser's voice is a unique thing of beauty. Her style of using vocals more as an additional vocal instrument may not to everyone's taste, perhaps, but no-one can deny her phenomenal power and range.