Kendra | 04/07/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Cocteau Twins created what is known as "Dream Pop"-- a very apt term. It's lush, rich, and layered with guitars and vocals on top of more guitars and vocals. When this specific cd came out in 1988, many Cocteau Twins' critics derided it. Their previous albums had a lush, gorgeous side, but had a darker side, as well. Critics had claimed that they had forgone their darker side to become more 'commercial' as Blue Bell Knoll was their first cd of entirely lush, ambient melodies-- truly dreamy pop music with no darker side at all. And, although many critics disliked it, all the fans immediately fell in love with it.
This cd is astounding to listen to. From the moment you press play to the moment it's over, you can get completely swept away in this sound. There is really nothing else like it. Musical bliss is how I'd describe it. It's atmospheric. It's rich. It's melodic. It's all-encompassing. If you haven't heard The Cocteau Twins before, then describing them adequately is a very difficult feat-- since there's no other band like them.
I remember back in the late 80s, I listened to this album less often than I'd listen to Victorialand and Treasure. I also listened to some of the band members' work that they had done separately. This Mortal Coil was a favorite of mine and included vocalist Elizabeth Fraser (whose cover of Tim Buckley's Song to the Siren was quite almost as gut-wrenching as the original). However, over the years, this specific album is perfect while I find their other albums just don't appeal to me quite as much as they used to.
Blue Bell Knoll is perfectly sublime."
Burling forever & ever & ever...
Flubjub | South Bend IN USA | 08/24/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Music is indeed a very personal experience. I remember first hearing BLUE BELL KNOLL in 1988, not too long after its release. Since I wasn't terribly familiar with the Cocteau Twins at that time, my initial impressions were of two or three (or maybe more) women (presumably French) singing what seemed to me equal parts lullaby, siren song, neo-folk, and - I don't know -- Arabic ululation perhaps? I remember rushing to find a copy of BBK (on vinyl, natch) after being seduced by the title song and "Carolyn's Fingers." (And incidentally -- are those Carolyn's long skinny fingers on the grainy album cover? A long-gone friend said they resembled a stylized depiction of Yoko Ono and John Lennon lying on the beach. Whatever.) Then I made a tape for drives to and from high school and wherever the day took me; and then the associations began: I don't think I can listen to "Cico Buff" for instance without picturing the flat oversized snowflakes parachuting into the ditches while I tried to keep that miserable two-toned Escort L on the slippery county road. And then "A Kissed Out Red Floatboat" (appropriately) reminds me of enduring a painfully ungoth ride on my parent's pontoon boat daydreaming of escaping and/or fleeing the Midwest.
Now it's nearly two decades later (gasp!), I'm still "imprisoned" in the Midwest, and each and every Cocteau Twins song, especially those from my first CT album BLUE BELL KNOLL, is like a very particular time capsule. They remind me of "that little phrase" of music from Proust's SWANN'S WAY that serves as a poignant memento of Swann's early love for Odette. But no need to get so literary about it. Cocteau Twins make very unique music, conducive to daydreaming, wistful recollection, and just plain feeling good - if even in a sometimes begrudging gothic sort of way.
Of course, I've dispelled my first impressions since 1988. If you haven't yet, well, then you should know that Cocteau Twins is a (now-defunct) Scottish band comprised, at least in the most common manifestation, of Elizabeth Fraser, Robin Guthrie, and Simon Raymonde. (Their debut album and first couple 12 inches featured Will Heggie in lieu of Raymonde. A few other things were done without Raymonde who either had not joined yet or was on hiatus - as in the case of VICTORIALAND.) The subject of lyrics is a controversial one. The late Cocteau Twins music is very discernibly English, but many people maintain that this was not always the case. The number of theories and supposed interviews with Ms. Fraser on this topic have yielded as much debate -- at least in the mid-80's heyday -- as the JFK assassination. Whatever the case, gibberish, English, or foreign tongue, it's just great music.
Shortly after the release of HEAVEN OR LAS VEGAS, BBK's follow-up, Alternative Press published a blurb, as I recall, referring to Cocteau Twins as "ABBA for the college set." I was furious -- not because ABBA wasn't cool in its own kind of anti-doctrinaire way, but because the comment seemed to suggest (in my admittedly defensive interpretation) that the band was something frivolous - as "frou-frou" perhaps as those midsummer fires. My question is: What's frivolous about catharsis?
At any rate, BLUE BELL KNOLL and 1984's TREASURE mark the Twins at the height of their powers. (At the obverse end of the spectrum, I'd situate HEAD OVER HEELS, but keep in mind though that even a lesser Cocteau Twins effort, being after all still a Cocteau Twins effort, isn't all that bad.) And they're all magical, multifoiled conduits to a mini-golden age in music - when you scoured the music bins for any and all 4AD releases (Colourbox excepted, Colourbox always excepted) waaaaay before the Warner Brothers distribution deal - when a Cocteau Twins imported CD cost twenty-four bucks and was available only at the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall indie record store - and when after a long, long, long search you finally snagged that "Peppermint Pig" 12" at Wax Trax and your collection was finally complete.