Why 1984 Ruled #3: Ska pop, Sa pum, Sa po

May 10, 2010

It took two or three times to get into the Cocteau Twins. It was worth the effort for sure. They made their way as a staple of my daily playlists when I was 19, and it was also a good starting point to get more into the Gothic side of Darkwave music (some of which even my dad would appreciate). By the time 1984 rolled around, they had given Will Heggie the boot after their debut “Garlands”, a record that had more in common with goth and post punk, and “Head Over Heels”, done as a duo with Robin Guthrie pushing the sounds into more ethereal territory where they would soon hone and refine their newly found style on their third record (and widely considered their best across the board), “Treasure”.

This record also included a staple to the ensemble, Simon Raymonde. Heels found Elizabeth Frazer reaching new heights with her vocal delivery, but this record really solidified the whole “voice of an angel” title she has recieved. Along with some other notable 4AD acts, this record is sort of the quintessential go to album when referring to the genre title “Dream Pop”. Head Over Heels still contained a lot of that post punk dissonance, and the overall production sounds more enclosed for lack of a better word. Treasure sounds like it was recorded in a big empty mansion, with the space that the sound reaches. Some of the vocal tracks doubling over in songs like “Beatrix” are just perfect. The abrasive drum loops are still there, especially in “Persephone”.

Like every other record, lyrics are to be ignored. Its sort of how Dead Infection wrote lyrics for all of the songs on “A Chapterbook of Accidents”, but the singer just gurgled every song, no words, just gurgles. The nice thing about this record is it doesn’t blow its load with the first few songs. Some of the best tracks are hidden near the end of side a or beneath on side b. The songs that can define a genre are here, songs like “Pandora” and “Aloysius” and “Otterly” is what I love most about this album. I’ve probably thought about putting Aloysius on a mix-tape for a girl and then decided against it because they probably wouldn’t understand. The opening track “Ivo”, is named after Ivo, head of 4AD. Wouldn’t have guessed huh?

My personal pick for a Cocteau record is probably Heaven or Las Vegas. The sound on it is dreamy, but focused within invisible confines. The sound on it is a little more geared towards mainstream, but like I care. It was the first one I really got into, and it was also the hardest one for me to get my hands on. I have most of every release of theirs on 4AD, minus one 12″ or so. If you want to buy it for me, that would be real swell, but I won’t hold my breath. If you read this, you’ve learned something a little bit. Now when you hear Poor Souls you can say, “Hey. I know that band”.

Cocteau Twins used the most pop-driven chord progressions, using the major first and ivth to get that sound that so many of your favourite indie bands or beardpunk bands live off of. They’re often cited as a proto-shoegaze outfit of some sort but when I think about the gaze, I think about bands using a lot of progressions that were popular in the 60s psychedelic sound, while Cocteau took what was more current but just draped it in so much lush swirling noise and almost industrial sounding percussion, that no one could really tell that beneath all of that lied a simple pop structure.

Similar Haircuts: This Mortal Coil, Dead Can Dance, Lycia


One Response to “Why 1984 Ruled #3: Ska pop, Sa pum, Sa po”

  1. Colin Says:

    I needed this post because I know shit about nothing. Why do I work in a record store?

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