Rocking Retro: Cocteau Twins – Pink Opaque

I have long been a vocal supporter of M83’s Saturdays=Youth, Anthony Gonzalez’s forray away from the typical instrumentals his project had produced. Instead he made a near-flawless dream pop album inspired by his teenage years. Ken Thomas produced the album, a guy who knows a thing or two about the John Hughes-inspired 80’s sheen Gonzalez was going for, having worked with Sugarcubes, Suede, and Cocteau Twins in the past.  I adore the album, and so it seems fitting that many have recommended I listen to the last band in that list – the Scottish trio the Cocteau Twins.   A friend suggested I start where most Americans did; he told me to go find a copy of The Pink Opaque.

The group’s record label, UK-based 4AD (a label the group is historically synonymous with) struck a deal stateside with Relativity Records to distribute the emerging band’s back catalog to the US – they were growing in popularity due to increasing airplay on college radio.  However, rather than releasing the plethora of EPs the Cocteau Twins had recorded between 1982 and 1985, Relativity made the decision to instead release a compilation of highlights for newcomers to get a taste of what the Twins were all about.

The Pink Opaque is a compilation released in January 1986 featuring ten previously recorded tracks.  Also put out in the UK, it was 4AD’s first CD release ever. The album has long been out of print, but I managed to find it on iTunes.  While I can hear the similarities in the comp from M83’s 2008 effort, the Twins certainly hold to their own sound – it makes sense this group was so influential for the dream pop movement.  At times the group has new-wave tendencies, at times they have the bass thump of the Cure, at times they are scary, at times they are beautiful, but they always manage to stick to their trademark collage.

I can probably name you groups and artists that were influenced by this album, but I would have difficulty in categorizing the music of the Cocteau Twins – they sound like their own entity.  The immediate standout is Elizabeth Fraser’s mouth-music vocals, indecipherable words that she usually chose to fit with the vibe of the song rather than conform to having meaning or message.

Needless to say, thanks to the Pink Opaque, I have fallen in love with the Cocteau Twins; I just wish I had listened to them sooner.  While I delve deeper into their back catalog, get a taste of this excellent compilation for yourself – a sampling of my three favorite tracks can be found below.

Cocteau Twins – The Spangle Maker

Cocteau Twins – Wax and Wane

Cocteau Twins – Pearly-dowdrops’Drops

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