on 23 August 2004
How can a record so submerged in misery and despair sound so hypnotically beautiful? By using a range of artists from 4AD's record label and covering a load of classics from the likes of Alex Chilton and Tim Buckley, the record draws you in by playing with your heartstrings through melancholic lyrics and dark, moody compositions.
The usual problem with these sorts of records is that they tend to sound repetitive, but you will not find any of that here. Some tracks are very minimal (the haunting Song to the Siren), others are deeply lush and textured (Fond Affections and Fyt to name a few) - there's something here for everyone, with the range of covers letting the older members reminisce about their Goth days in the eighties and tracks like The Last Ray giving the younger listeners a taste of eighties chillout music. And the good thing is it all blends into a cohesive whole.
Of course, the album is not without its short comings. The one track that I just can't warm up to is one with Lisa Gerrard on vocals called Dreams Made Flesh, and it pains me to say it because I love her soaring banshee-like wails, but throughout that track she just seems to be doing her own thing with her singing and the instruments not going with each other at all. Luckily, she is redeemed by a second track to which she lends her vocals, Waves Become Wings (which is one of my favourite tracks). I have a few other nitpicks, but they're mainly associated to the fact that the record was released twenty years ago, such as the sometimes rather clumsy way in which some of the songs are melded into each other.
But, those are just minor quibbles in what is a superb album full of captivating and emotive tracks.
on 20 February 2001
Since first hearing Song To The Siren way back when I was first stopped dead in my little Gothic tracks this whole album has stayed with me. It mirrors a cascade of life's emotions and no doubt I will still be playing it when all my velvet is jaded and all my candles faded but it will never fail to ignite something deep down. Buy it and try it, lie back and find yourself deep within it.
If only the heads of all record labels had the imagination and good taste of Ivo Watts-Russell ( Not to mention the cool name) Watts Russell the head of 4AD wanted to record songs by artists he loved using not only bands on the 4AD label at the time. but other up-coming artists. The idea for This Mortal Coil-named after a poetic expression from Shakespeare's Hamlet-came after 4AD band Modern English had refused to re-record two songs they usually closer their concerts with. Watts-Russell decided to do it himself with Elizabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins and Gordon Sharp Of Cindytalk providing the vocals. One of the intended b-sides was the cover of Tim Buckley's "Song To The Siren " with Liz Fraser on vocals. The result of this was deemed so spectacular that the project took off -though it must be said that Robin Guthrie of The Cocteau Twins became virulently scathing about the version- though it must also be said he tends to do that about most of his back catalogue.
The first album by This Mortal Coil released in 1984 came after an EP -"Sixteen Days Gathering Dust" and as well as featuring the aforementioned artists also had contributions from Simon Raymonde(Cocteau Twins) Steven and Martyn Young ( Colourbox) Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry (Dead Can Dance) Mark Cox ( The Wolfgang Press) Robbie Grey (Modern English) and Howard Devoto. The album interspersed the cover versions with original compositions- usually instrumentals.
It,s really the choice of songs that makes It,ll End In Tears so special. As well as "Song To The Siren" Liz Fraser sings Roy Harpers "Another Day" quite beautifully over stately strings.Big Star,s "Kangaroo" pinions Gordon Sharps emphatic vocals round thunking bass and groaning cello while the other Big Star track "Holocaust" also from the album "Sister/Lovers", drapes Howard Devoto,s slightly aloof vocal to piano notes so liquid they could be made of the album titles tears."Fond Affections" is almost impossibly even more bereft than "Holocaust"-"There,s no light at the end of it all / Let,s all sit down and cry". The caustic guitars of Wires "Not Me" and Robbie Greys Colin Newman like vocal comes as something of a shock after the gorgeous melancholy that has gone before. The two Lisa Gerrrard tracks "Waves Become Wings" and "Dreams Made Flesh" are exotically compelling while the eerie ambient shifts of "Fyt" actually pre-dated a lot of the ambient /dance crossover music of the 1990,s.
This Mortal Coil went to record two more albums -"Filligree & Shadow"amd "Blood" before Watts-Russell pulled the plug on the project( Though he did soemthing similar with The Hope Blister in 1998.Good as those albums are the only one that has the feel of a resonant complete project is "It,ll End In Tears" .Right down to the gorgeous sepia toned sleeve by "Envelope 23" this is a work of art. Misery has never been so compelling or beautiful. Let those tears flow.
on 4 November 2011
I first heard TMC's 'It'll End In Tears' back in early 1991 when a hi-fi store owner sat me down in a 'listening room' to demonstrate the qualities of a Denon CD player... which I still own. I was'nt heavily into the goth sound or minimalist stuff, but I went out and bought this as soon as I could find it, as this left me mesmerised. Without wishing to sound like a pretencious music journalist, the experience was utterly ethereal and unlike anything I'd ever heard before, with its strange sonic landscapes and classy choice of vocalists and avant-garde 'alt' musicians.
From the gorgeously floating 'Song To The Siren' (words c/o Tim Buckley and voice c/o the Cocteau Twins' Liz Frazer) to the Wire-esque rocker 'Not Me', this is both a hauntingly atmospheric and stranglely compelling collection of songs. Different TMC collectives followed-up with the far more self-indulgent 'Blood' and 'Filigree & Shadow' albums a few years later, and while they both had their moments, they were relatively dull and uninspiring affairs which could not compete with this otherworldy classic. There are few such records in my collection, but this deserves a special place. Give it a go if you want to hear something truly different, as you may be pleasantly surprised.
on 28 April 2004
An ethereal masterpiece, which still stands the test of time today, evento the jaded and so often disappointed ears of a 35 year old, digging intohis unpurchased past. There are obvious comparisons, many of them from inand around the 4AD roster that is so elegantly showcased here. You know"song to the siren" but there are marvellous suprises beyond this...but awarning to other aging indiekids-this will make you nostalgic for the goodold days, when there really was a strong range of cutting edge Britishsmall labels prepared to issue something as uncommercial as this delicatejewel.
on 24 March 2015
Ah! The wonderful world of Ivo (Ivo Watts-Russell) and the visionary creation of 4AD, thus bringing together - not a group, but a gathering of musicians...an ambiguous, eclectic mix of extraordinary talent - all given the formidable task of creating musical harmony that went beyond the call of duty - and this gathering would be named This mortal Coil.
And when you're a visionary - like Ivo, your mission will be to go that little bit further, to find hidden musical gems by other artists - and when found, they are to be handed to this gathering, so each wondrous discovery can be reinterpreted the 4AD way - and what of the finished product? Well, what we have is a gorgeous collection of original material - but what takes this music to another level are the stunning cover versions of songs - that, at the time, were not technically on the radar of the masses. Let's put it this way...I was so unaware of their existence.
Let me give you a few examples:
First and foremost, if you're going to start with one song, then it's the song that defines all songs, that jaw-dropping moment, the one that stops you in your tracks ...I of course, refer to Elizabeth Fraser/Robin Guthrie's heavenly interpretation (just guitar and voice)of one of the most beautiful songs ever! Tim Buckley's 'Song to the Siren', that has now been covered by everyone, from Bryan Ferry to Robert Plant.
And while we're on the subject of Ms Fraser, she also adds her voice - so velveteen and so profound, to Roy Harper's 'Another Day' - a string laden song of absolute beauty, if ever there was one.
Of the others, two more are equally emotive - 'Kangaroo' and 'Holocaust', both originally composed by Alex Chilton of Big star fame, with the very brilliant inclusion of Howard (ex Buzzcocks/Magazine) Devoto's voice on the latter of the two.
Of the original work, we have a mix of vocal and instrumental pieces with valued contributions from Simon Raymonde(The Cocteau Twins) - Lisa Gerrard/Brendan Perry( Dead can Dance) and many others - all vital to the cause. If I can add just one small piece of criticism into the fold, then it would be the lack of Brendan Perry's rich and textured voice. Listen to 'Ullyses' off 'The Serpent's Egg' and you'll understand why I feel he has a lot more to offer than just a percussive contribution - and please take my advice: Go on YouTube and watch his live version of 'Song to the Siren'(also with Robin Guthrie) - it's sublime.
This formation of musicians was undoubtedly the start of something immensely special - and more the surprising, we have only had two more additional collectives - 1986's 'Filigree and Shadow' and 1991's 'Blood' - but for me, 'It'll end in Tears' is the one that truly soars - never to be bettered.
on 8 September 2000
4AD were one of the most influential labels in the alternative 'indie' music scene of the early 1980s. Label owner Ivo Watts-Russell capitalised on the success of his label to record his own albums, under the name of This Mortal Coil. Making early use of the recording studio as an instrument and employing the skills of producer/engineer John Fryer Ivo used his own artists to add flesh to his dreams. The result should be self-indulgent and twee. It isn't. 'It'll End in Tears' is an appropriate title as the album should move you. Highlights include 'Song to the Siren' features Cocteau Twin Elizabeth Fraser forced to the forefront as she had never dared do before and 'Kangaroo', achingly reflective and hauntingly beautiful.
on 7 May 2010
I was in my final year at Leeds University in 1983/84, living in a shared house with four others. A couple of us (including me) thought we knew something about music, and approached it a little more seriously; the rest just liked good pop. We all used to watch Top Of The Pops on a Thursday, and The Tube on a Friday. And so one week, everything on either show has been absolute rubbish, and by around 6.45 the others have given up and it's just me in front of a black & white TV. Then some video of a new single gets played: the band is This Mortal Coil (never heard of 'em), the tune is "Song To The Siren", written by some bloke called Tim Buckley (never heard of him either). No high hopes. Starts slow, floaty electric guitar with no real time signature: now, that's good. Then the vocal comes in: oh, of course, Liz Frazer, Cocteau Twins, a favourite band, a fabulous voice. But the song: oh, man, the song. And that voice singing it: the stunning melisma (look it up) on lines like "waiting to hold you", or "shies from the sorrow"; the overwhelmimng emotional impact. I'm pretty sure I was in tears by the end of it, incoherently swearing my head off about how utterly wonderful music can be. Anyway, bought the 12" the next day, and looked for Buckley's own version of the song, or indeed anything by him: nothing available. It was only some years later that I finally heard any of his stuff, and for a while I just didn't get him at all: until Demon put out "Dream Letter - Live In London 1968" in 1990, when suddenly it all made sense and I realised that his voice was at least as good as Frazer's ... but that's a different story.
I have to confess that I've no idea what the rest of the album is like, which perhaps invalidates the review: but if any album is worth buying for one tune, this is surely it. Five stars for one tune, but that tune is possibly the greatest single thing I've ever heard. Stone-cold Desert Island Disc. Don't even have to hear the song: just thinking about it makes me shiver. Just a shame that Frazer doesn't actually know the words ...
on 31 August 2007
I first heard this back in the 1980's, a decade that wasn't my favourite musically; very little stands out for me in that decade, but this was one of the rare quality moments.
It's one of those very rare albums where each track compliments both the last and the next track, and together complete an entire album of haunting, introspective (but not gloomy) thinking person's music.
My personal favourites are 'Kangaroo' and the cover of folk singer Roy Harper's 'Another Day'.
I'm listening to my vinyl copy as I write this (yes, I'd rather listen to the vinyl than my CD copy - my age I suppose!!!!) but I haven't played it for years and what a pleasure it is to hear it all again.
Cut to 1990. Some friends and I go to watch Ride play in Oxford. What was that intro music? Cut to a record shop in which I've just started working. A guy from The Grooveyard (of 'Czechoslavakian Moomin' non-fame) puts on a cd of This Mortal Coil's 'It'll end in Tears'. I am blown away- and pleased to find out the Ride intro music was 'FYt'. Cut to getting an advance on my meagre wages. Cut to getting home. To turning my stereo on. To pressing play. To listening to heaven.
This is an album that I always come back to; personally I thought the follow-up albums were too long. There were some great moments: 'Late Night', 'Morning Glory', 'The Jeweller', 'The Lacemaker', 'You & Your Sister'- but nothing as great as the whole here...The album begins on 'Kangaroo', from Big Star's heartbreaking 'Third/Sister Lovers'. Was there ever a perfect line as "I first saw you/it was at a party"?. Martin McGarrick (Siouxsie/Banshees; Therapy?; Marc & Mambas) and Simon Raymonde (Cocteau Twins; the producer of Billy Mackenzie's 'Beyond the Sun'-as mindblowing an album as this) create a wonderful ambience for Gordon Sharp's vocal. It's not as good as the Big Star version...'Song to the Siren' is the famous one- used in adverts, (almost)used by David Lynch in 'Blue Velvet' (he couldn't afford it). Eventually used in 'Lost Highway' (though not on the soundtrack album) in one of its best scenes: whiteout headlights and a naked Patricia Arquette telling Bill Pullman he will never have her. Liz Fraser's vocal is as gorgeous as anything else she's done- 'Teardrop', 'Suckling the Mender', 'Aikea Guinea'.It's written by Tim Buckley, from the wonderful 'Star Sailor' album- any chance of a reissue,Warners?..Howard Devoto, post-Magazine, sings a wonderful version of 'Sister Lovers' , 'Holocaust'. Perfect...'Fyt' is a building ambient glory, fit to rank next to anything by Eno, Reich et al...'Fond Affections' is minimal-ballad, again sung by Gordon Sharp and leading to the Cocteau-barrage of Guthrie & Raymonde on instrumental 'The Last Ray'. This builds to the return of Liz Fraser on Roy Harper's 'Another Day'- I prefer this to 'Song of the Siren'. Dead Can Dance vocalist Lisa Gerrard fuses with Ivo & Fryer for 'Waves Become Wings'-as good as anything on 'The Serpents Egg'. Simon Raymonde joins her for 'Barramundi'; while DCD partner Brendan Perry aids her on 'Dreams Made Flesh'. This songs will move you towards 'A Passage of Time' or the recent DCD box set...'Not Me' is from Colin Newman's post-Wire#1 ('Pink Flag'-'154')album, 'A-Z'- which also features the wonderful 'Alone', that is heard in 'Silence of the Lambs' and TMC perform on 'Filigree & Shadow'. This is as close to rocking out as TMC get; Robbie Grey's vocals are VERY Colin Newman. 'A Single Wish' is an original composition and brings a wonderful album to a conclusion. Add the awesome 23 Envelope cover and you have an album you cannot live without.
This is the direction- rather than formless 'chill out' music (a very 1991 concept). As with the first Portishead album, Cocteau Twins and Dead Can Dance- it's basically joss-sticks & shagging music. Oh, you're going to buy it now?