Every time I listen to an ’80s Cocteau Twins record I think “this will be the one where I’m convinced they’re not overly indebted to the Banshees”. So far, that hasn’t happened yet. Even on this, ostensibly their masterpiece.
I know what it is: try as I might, I cannot hear Fraser without thinking, at least, a little bit, of Siouxsie Sioux. And that’s completely unfair to Fraser, who is not only a different (and better) singer than Siouxsie Sioux, but her style is so distinct that it’s ridiculous to compare them. But there is something in their timbres that I find so similar my brain always goes there, whether I want it or not. (It’s worth thinking about this through the lens of the male domination of the music industry too. How often do I write off a band’s music because their lead singer sounds too much like X to me? I do that now, but not that often and I’m pretty sure I had zero problems with it when I was a teenager or twenty-something.)
It’s not just Frazer. There’s something unmistakably jangly about Guthrie’s guitar playing that reminds me of some of the Banshees various guitarists. And so my brain hears Fraser’s voice plus the guitar and I immediately think about the Banshees.
I’m struggling with all of this because I have read many times about Cocteau Twins’ importance to the history of dream pop and, having now listened to a fair amount of it, it’s something I know intellectually. So when my visceral reaction is to be like “This is just softer Banshees” I have a problem.
If I could listen to this record without all of this baggage, I might say that it sounds like the beginning of dream pop and ethereal wave (if I must acknowledge its existence) or, rather, that it is the culmination of early dream pop which was starting to appear on Head Over Heels.
That makes the record a really big deal. Moreover, as ethereal dream pop goes, this is what it should sound like – it’s otherworldly, at times almost alien (but in a pretty way).
So, um, I think it’s probably a very big deal, even if it reminds me way too much of something else.