Cocteau Twins: Garlands (4AD) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, June 19th, 2024  



Apr 20, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

There aren’t many bands that had such a significant impact on music as Cocteau Twins. Particularly since the first wave of punk threw a curveball and changed perceptions on how music could and should be made.

Even to this day, their music sounds as if it were created by aliens from another planet altogether. Almost impossible to pigeonhole from the outset, it wouldn’t be amiss to say a number of genres have since emerged purely off the back of Cocteau Twins’ unique sound (shoegaze, dreampop, ambient rock). Yet when they first emerged from the industrial town of Grangemouth in Scotland’s Forth Valley as three teenagers immersed in the more creative side of punk it proved a head scratching moment for some.

Influenced by Siouxsie and the Banshees and part of a new wave of groups whose music and ideology was a million miles away from punk’s “no future” nihilism, Cocteau Twins found themselves initially picked up by the goth movement that was slowly building around the UK. With bands like The Cure, The Birthday Party, and The Chameleons also gaining momentum around the same time, there were a number of kindred spirits.

What set them apart was Elizabeth Fraser’s vocal, or “the voice of God” as it was often referred to. It’s revelatory compared to the present that their debut release for then fledgling independent label 4AD was an album. Comprised of eight songs and released in 1982, Garlands represented a year zero for alternative guitar music. Indeed even now, it’s hard to believe these songs were written and recorded almost 40 years ago. Its eight pieces still stand proud as timeless artefacts from an era where synthetic pop was all the rage.

Now reissued on vinyl for the first time in a decade with remastered audio, songs like “Wax and Wane” and “But I’m Not” undoubtedly influenced a generation of effects pedalled guitar slingers decades on. While “The Hollow Men” sounds as hauntingly beautiful today as it did when first released some 38 years ago.

While revisiting Garlands for this review it made me think of an interview I did with Robin Guthrie seven years ago. In it he said, “There’s still too many folks that just cannot let go of the Cocteau Twins. On one hand it’s quite fantastic but on the other it’s quite sad. I was speaking to someone after a show and we got onto the set I’d just played but all they wanted to talk about was why I didn’t play their favorite songs off Garlands?”

Which as frustrating as that must be for any artist, with a back catalogue as astonishingly good as Guthrie’s, perfectly sums up the impact and longevity of this record.

Simply breathtaking in every possible way. (

Author rating: 9/10

Rate this album
Average reader rating: 9/10


Submit your comment

Name Required

Email Required, will not be published


Remember my personal information
Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

June 19th 2021

Almost impossible to pigeonhole from the outset, it wouldn’t be amiss to say a number of genres have since emerged purely off the back of Cocteau Twins’ unique sound.