My only experience of the Cocteau Twins before this record was Blue Bell Knoll, a record that both sounds very different from this one and quite similar. Listening to this, knowing now where they came from, I think I should have rated Blue Bell Knoll higher, because I never would have guessed that it was this specific path they took.
What I mean is that Cocteau Twins sound here like a less rocky, more ethereal version of the Banshees, but with no live drummer and a less interesting guitar player (depending upon which version of the Banshees we’re talking about). Though apparently the Siouxsie Sioux influence has decreased since Garlands (their debut record) that’s kind of hard to believe so I can only imagine how derivative they sounded earlier, on their debut.
But Fraser is her own singer – though she would clearly find more of her own niche later – and the band isn’t the Banshees. (Also, the production is dreamier and far less immediate than the Banshees.) So it feels kind of mean to harp on the comparison. But the similarities are there, and on this record they are somewhat pronounced.
I don’t know much of the histories of genres I don’t love, so I don’t know where and when dream pop first emerged but this record definitely feels like it was an important step along that path. Everything is slower than it should be – or would be with basically any other post punk band – and so many of the instruments behind Fraser’s voice sound far away and inaccessible when, normally, they would be nearly as far forward as her voice or maybe even more forward than that. It’s still not quite dreamy enough to properly qualify I don’t think – for one thing that drum machine is way to damn loud for it to be dreamy – but it does feel like these guys had stumbled onto a different means of expression, despite how similar they sound to the Banshees in all other ways – and I honestly don’t know if anyone else had beat them to it. (A quick google seems to confirm that, yes, indeed, this was a seminal moment in the history of dream pop.)
Anyway, I find the later version of this band much more alluring as this version reminds me way too much of a band I like better. But it’s hard to deny they haven’t found their niche even with all those similarities.