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Cocteau Twins ‎– The Pink Opaque

4AD

Cocteau Twins ‎– The Pink Opaque4AD have always had a good ear for the creation of compilations — The Birthday Party’s Hits was total cherry-picked greatness for one, then there’s Lonely is an Eyesore, The 13 Year Itch; the list stretches into the horizon. Now this Cocteau Twins ‘best of’ (originally marketed to strike the American market back in the mid-Eighties and now lushly re-mastered for 2015) is further evidence of this.  Even now the sticky tar-pit macadam of the cover gives little away to the mesmerizing collection of tunes it contains; I love the way it makes you feel like an archaeologist as you remove the vinyl from its sleeve. Another 23 Envelope masterpiece that spoke volumes and has been faithfully restored to its original glory.

Musically things start off brilliantly with the psychedelic-tinged pop of “Spangle Maker”, all baseball bounce and firefly tapers. A spellbound concoction that hooks your head, weaves your synapse in finite lushness. Thirty years later its magic hasn’t diminished one iota, nor have the other hits like the soothing, melodic “Pepper Tree” and its ticking clock outro, or the unforgettably beautiful “Pearly Dew Drops Drop” or the thunderous “Musette and Drums”. This collection still packs plenty of punch after three decades.

 Cocteau Twins ‎– Pearly-Dewdrops' Drops

Liz Fraser’s lush and all-too-often indecipherable vocals lead to a rich vein of mishearings. On “Pearly Dew Drops” I swear she’s repeatingly chanting “he sun is rotten”. Did I hear that right on “Spangle Maker”: “It’s the choc-o-late of Me-du-sa”? —  the chorus sounding like she’s repeating “Broken window, broken window” ad infinitum – at the time sanctity reflecting a car drive through ’80s Liverpool. The music endures, takes on unbeknown associations, tangles itself up with the fabric of life, as much as it binds itself inexorably to that celestial swirl of an image by Gertrude Kasebier that graced the original EP’s cover.

Also included here is “Millimillenary”, a rarity (if you never invested in the NME that is), a freebie off the ’80s Department Of Enjoyment compilation that rubbed shoulders with The Smiths, Lloyd Cole, Orange Juice and The Art of Noise. A track that dared to successfully dream itself out of pop’s confining shackles; those incessant typewriter percussions on “Wax and Wane” are good to hear again too, from the rather excellent Garlands LP, a dark-sinewed début that for me ranks as one of their finest imaginings and has become something of a Hallowe’en time favourite in my household.

As an introduction to the group, this collection doesn’t fail to captivate and intrigue throughout its ten tracks. The splashly drum machine curtsies of “Flagstones”, “Aikea-Guinea”’s hypnotic beguile: you can’t find fault in any of it; the ethereal bliss of “Treasure’s Lorelei”, that neo-classical vibrancy, a sparkle that has me reaching to reacquaint myself with the album, the closing track’s driven passion sending me head over heels to reminisce further. Another 4AD re-issue that feels like it never went away.

-Michael Rodham-Heaps-

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