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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 12 June 2005
Garlands is often regarded now as not being as good as the rest of the Cocteau Twins' albums. Everyone had to start somewhere, though, and I really still like Garlands. Check out some great bass playing by Will Heggie - he left after this album. It is worth ensuring that you get the additional tracks, too - "Dear Heart" is among their best.
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on 8 December 2007
I felt compelled to write a review to defend this album since many people are negative and dismissive about it. In contrast to these people I have always felt that "Garlands" was one of the Cocteau Twin's strongest releases.

I am immediately struck by the haunting atmosphere, the icy sounding guitars, the dark snake-like bass lines, the cold percussion and Liz Fraser's weird yet beautiful vocals. Though you could probably guess when the recording was made it still holds up as a unique and special piece of work. The guitar work in particular is spectacular - minimal, intense and brooding.

The Cocteau Twins slowly changed with each album and later releases are considerably more accessible to newcomers. There are no doubt people who will associate them with the brighter, more ethereal pop that they became known for but I've always preferred the darker, earlier albums (not that I dislike the later releases).

Those of you who like The Cure's "Pornography" and Siouxsie and The Banshees' "Ju Ju" will love "Garlands".
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on 10 December 2008
Well there must be some mistake here. I couldn't help writing something when I saw that nobody had bothered to review Garlands my favourite Cocteau's disc. That's extraordinary in itself but the really extraordinary thing is this record! It's a work of genius me thinks. Every time I read about The Cocteaus it seems to suggest that they didn't really do anything of any note until 'Victorialand' or some such piece of relative mediocrity. It gets to your very soul this one and goes through it and shakes it up a bit. Listen to this please (But only aftr dark) or get the BBC sessions. Pulsing! Not detailed or specific or good English I know, but hey its my first and probably last review.
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on 13 November 2005
Garlands was the first album from Cocteau Twins and it is very much the sound of a band finding their feet. It is the only album with original bassist Will Heggie and his chugging basslines give the album a distinctive sound. Robin Guthrie, by his own admission, had no idea how a studio worked at the time, but was confident enough in his burgeoning ability to produce. The result is an album, and a guitar sound, with a strangled, constricted range and a dark ambience.In the post-punk world of the early 1980s the influence of Siouxsie and the Banshees and other proto-goths is clear, but the beginning of the trademark ethereal Twins sound is also here, especially in Elizabeth Fraser's curiously addictive vocals.

The songs are simple, repetitive and haunting, with guitar, vocals, bass and the gloriously lo-fi drum machine; usually entering separately and building to a climax, like 'Grail Overfloweth'. Other songs built around a simple repetive guitar refrain, almost Fripp-like in its minimalism, like album highlights 'Wax and Wane' or 'Blind Dumb Deaf.'

Unfortunately, this reissue omits the John Peel session which was probably many listeners first experience of the Cocteaus (it was certainly mine) and this is a shame as it is possibly the best of the early work with Heggie still in tow.

Overall, an interesting album, but not the place to start if you're new to the Cocteau Twins. Its probably of most interest to those who remember the original release, or want to see how the band started out.
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on 20 January 2014
People who criticise 'Garlands' tend to be late(r) comers to the band, who think 'Treasure' is their masterpiece. Those of us who were there at the start would tend to see 'Treasure' as a good but diluted version of the true Cocteau sound, as evidenced by first John Peel session, 'Peppermint Pig', and the truly awesome 'Garlands'. This fuses proto-electronics with a heavier. Gothic drone than their later so-called 'blissed out' modes. However, to me it has always sounded punchier on vinyl, CD tending to wimp-out Guthrie's guitar. Get it on vinyl. Thrill to the delicious opening of 'Blood Bitch'. Then love the rest of it. 'Treasure', smeasure.
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on 3 December 2006
I can't believe the negative comments I've been reading about this album. I owned it on vinyl as an angst-ridden student in the early 1980s, and just loved its dark, haunting and melancholy sounds. Yes it was a raw sound, but nonetheless wonderful. For some reason I never bought any of their subsequent albums, and therefore recently purchased, out of curiosity, one of their collections albums (Stars And Topsoil), believing that the standards set with Garlands may have been maintained, or even improved upon. I was a little bit disappointed. After Garlands it seems they lost much of their moody and melancholy minor key sound, which I had loved, and now seemed to create music that was far too optimistic, and mostly in major keys. So, to me, Garlands seems to have been Cocteau Twins' high point, an absolute gem.
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on 4 May 2010
This may not be the Cocteaus best Album, but it did create a template that the group built on for the rest of its career. The album clearly demonstrates the otherness that accompanies most of the group's work - and in the its first outing exhibited the group's three key factors that would ensure their successes - Liz Fraser's original vocal approach, Robin Guthrie's economic but multi-layered guitar style and an innovative use of the studio. The success of the album also allowed the group to build a fan base and supportive media, which would follow the group through it developments during the 1980s.

Not the first Cocteau album for beginners to start with, but a key piece in their canon.
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on 18 September 2009
Garlands, combined with the excellent John Peels session 1983, is perhaps my all time favourite album. I don’t usually feel compelled to write reviews but because of the mixed reviews I’ve read about this musical masterpiece, I thought I might shed some light on the situation as I see it.

It seems to me that Cocteau Twins fans are divided into two camps. The first camp consists of those, like myself, who like the Twins grinding post-punky material from the Will Heggie period – their first bass player who played on Garlands, John Peel Session 83, Lullabies, and Peppermint Pig, and who left in 1983. The second camp consists of those who prefer the shoegazingly post-Will Heggie material, and this camp very much forms the majority as about 95% of CT music is from this period (1983 – 98). So is it any wonder that Garlands gets some negative reviews if 95% of those reviewing it have ‘second camp’ expectations. That said, one must bear in mind that when Garlands was released before this second camp existed, even before shoe-gazing existed, the album made a serious mark on the indie-music zeitgeist of 1982. With no press exposure and only a handful of live shows the album reached the top 10 in the independent chart where it stayed for
the following year. At the end of 1982 NME readers voted it among the best albums of the year. God only knows how the Twins would have progressed from Garlands if Heggie had have stayed – I’d dare to suggest that they could have made an impact like say Joy Division did.

In fact, with the exception of Head Over Heels and the odd gem like From the Flagstones, Lorelie, or Aikea Ginea, I find a lot of their later stuff rather insipid. I even find some of Liz Frazer’s vocals a little grating (eg, Pearly Dewdrops Drops) and I feared the band ran the risk of becoming a parody of themselves with overblown alliterated assonance-laden titles (eg Spooning Good Singing Gum or The Itchy Glowbo Blow). But that’s just me however!

As far Garlands itself. From its spectacular abstract sleeve, which aptly represents the intense journey the listener is about to take, right down to Liz Frazer’s final wail to see Grail Overfloweth out, Garlands is powerful stuff and I’ve never heard anything like it. The album is the coming together of three musicians, all uniquely brilliant in their departments, who have a mutual understanding and manage to create a synergic result. Robin Guthrie’s high pitched screeching guitar is almost juxtaposed alongside Will Heggie’s low-pitched morose bass. And then throw Liz Frazer’s powerfully raw vocals into the mix. I’m undecided as to which is my favourite track. Wax and Wane was the initial one that hooked me, as I’m sure it did for many listeners, but as time went on, I find myself falling for the albums less linear songs like The Hollow Men. Basically I like them all. If purchasing this album try to get it combined with the excellent John
Peels session 1983 – Hearsay Please has possibly got the best intro I’ve ever heard, second only to that of Dear Heart.

My only two criticisms of Garlands, although not criticisms but more observations. I sometimes think the album, even though timeless in my opinion, would have fared better if it had have been released about three years earlier so that it really would have tied in with the post-punk movement of 1979. Another thing I often wonder about – what might the album sound like if it had a real drummer rather than a drum machine – maybe this could be Robin Guthrie’s next project!!

All in all, it seems people will either love this album or hate it and I most certainly fall into the former.
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on 16 November 2013
The reviewers who gave this album less than 5 stars probably don't like music anyway.

I had never heard the Twins before I heard this and have never bought anything by them again. I heard Victorialand later but it's very tepid compared to this.

The music here is dark, slightly haunting and very atmospheric.
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on 19 March 2004
I think it's easy to miss the impact of this album if you only compare it to the later greater works. Taken on its own, and I remember buying it when it was first released, it has an incredible atmosphere and sound, taking off from JuJu-era Siouxsie, with wonderfully brittle vocals and glacial guitars. I still love it.
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