The Cocteau Twins burst onto the scene with their debut album “Garlands” way back in 1982. The 8 track record is both accurate and misguiding about what was to come. It features Elizabeth Fraser ‘s ethereal voice but the emphasis is just as much on the brooding guitars here than anything else. However what does definitely remain is the feeling of being somewhere not quite on Earth.
“Blood Bitch” opens the album with a brooding bass heavy number and introduces you to the various warbles and screams that Elizabeth can do without having much of heavy tune. “Wax and Wane” gives you more of a tune to follow but again, as we would soon learn, most of the songs are just as much about the general feeling as the tune itself. This is one of the songs that you can actually make out every single word in English – this being before the lyrics became a chant like self made language that the Cocteau Twins would use on later albums.
“But I’m Not” continues the darker tone of the album with some nice guitar work and an excellent ending sequence before “Blind Dumb Deaf” sounds more like the music they’d do later on with distorted guitar broken chords being repeated under Elizabeth’s soaring voice.
“Shallow then Halo” follows the formula the previous songs has to great effect and “The Hollow Men” has a very funky bass line to get shouting along to and has lots of high pitched guitar wails. Following that the title track “Garlands” is a bit surprising as it doesn’t stand out as a title track except for the chorus which is the most melodic part of the entire album. “Grail Overfloweth” closes the album with a more quieter track which after a whole album of non stop squealing guitar distortion is welcome. It doesn’t last too long before the guitars return but this is the creepiest song of the album and leaves you in awe with the beauty of the voice, but slightly uneasy too.
“Garlands” isn’t the strongest Cocteau Twins album and people wanting to get into them would do well to start elsewhere (Treasure perhaps?) as this isn’t entirely representative of their style nor is it the easiest to get into. There’s plenty here for you once you are liking them but I found I had a mental block on the album until I’d been broken in.