Tag Archives: 4AD

Victorialand

Victorialand
Cocteau Twins
4AD – 1986

We were newlyweds, and my wife asked my friend, Joel, what Cocteau Twins album I needed the most (that I didn’t already have).  He suggested Victorialand because “the first song is nothing but major sevenths and reverb.”  She bought the album, and it quickly became one of my favorite in the band’s catalog.

It is certainly a strange album, even for the band already known for its creativity and unique sound.  First, the band recorded without one of its guitarists, Simon Raymonde, who was working with This Mortal Coil (on its beautiful Filigree & Shadow album).  It seems that the band’s other guitarist, Robin Guthrie, saw Raymonde’s absence as an opportunity to experiment.  The album features more acoustic guitars than usual, all drenched in reverb and delay.  Second, on all but two songs, there are no rhythm tracks.  Not even the band’s signature, harsh drum machines.

Glancing at the song titles reveals this is a concept album about ice and snow.  (And knowing that Victorialand is an Antarctic region certainly helps.)  Matched with equally icy and shimmery guitars, it’s one of the better executed concept albums I’ve ever heard.  Every time I listen, my head swirls in the whirlpool of chorused guitar strums and eighth note delay.  It really is euphoric.

All that said, I know that getting into a band like the Cocteau Twins can take a lot of work, even for fans of 80s British alternative.  While folks who dig Cocteau Twins usually enjoy bands like The Cure and New Order, I’m not sure the reverse could be said.  Sure, the bed of chorused guitars would be familiar to fans of “A Forest,” but Elizabeth Frasier’s vocals can be bone-chilling and even downright weird.

She clearly uses her voice like an instrument. (Bjork fans would be accustomed to this.)  Frasier sings in English, but she clearly obscures the words so many verses resemble elvish.  Only occasionally can the listener perceives a few words.  Sure that description sounds so weird, but listening to Victorialand, it makes so much sense.

I’m sure the album is on Spotify, or perhaps you could piece it together with YouTube videos.  In any case, please take the time.  The band is so important to the development of dream pop that you have to, at the very least, investigate it.  (So fans of The Sundays and The Dream Academy take note!)  Victorialand is an especially fitting album on these cool, autumn evenings.

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Episode 52: Words, so often, fail.

Michael Been (1950-2010)

It should come as no surprise that I would love The Call. I love The Band, Joy Division, The Clash and New Order, and The Call seemed to be an amalgam of them all. Ironically, this was probably the same reason so many of my friends didn’t get hip to the band. It was simply difficult to reconcile the digital synthesizers of the 1980s, punk/post-punk aesthetics and American grit.

Although The Call was officially a band through the 1990s, it only released one record in its last decade. That album, To Heaven and Back, seemed to be an attempt to revive a career. (In actuality, it was probably more of a gift than anything from Dan Russell and his small label, Fingerprint.) The songs were raw and much more palatable for the post-grunge 90s listener, but a comeback never really materialized.

Last week, Michael Been, the bassist, singer and primary songwriter for The Call died. He suffered a heart attack while backstage at a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (his son’s band) show in Belgium. I was always in awe at how well he could play bass and sing. I was taken even more by his typically sober lyrics.

Been’s thoughts concerning his own favorite bands mirror my affection for his band. In an interview to promote To Heaven and Back, he said, “”I personally like music that speaks to me about my life, not my fantasies, not my ego. When a band writes a song and I can say ‘that’s how I feel, that’s what I think, that’s my experience,’ it creates a kind of community. Loneliness, or better still, aloneness, is a basic emotion we all share to varying degrees, and the music that appeals to me is the type that eases that aloneness.”

Enjoy.

  1. “The Itchy Glowbo Blow” – Cocteau Twins (Blue Bell Knoll/4AD/1988)
  2. “Scarlet” –  Lush* (Gala/4AD/1990)
  3. “Transit” – The Lines (Memory Span/Acute Records/2008)
  4. “Ageless Beauty” – Stars (Set Yourself on Fire/Arts & Crafts/2005)
  5. “Expecting” – The Call (Out of the Woods/Elektra/1987)
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1415312/52radiofreeraytown.mp3″

Radio Free Raytown – Episode #52 (8/27/10)

*After listening through this show, I realized I incorrectly stated this song was by His Name is Alive, yet another 4AD band worth investigating. I’ve been listening to its first record quite a bit recently, too.

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Fall sounds.

Autumn has arrived.  The equinox was last week, but the grey skies and noticeably cooler temperatures hit today.  This is my favorite season for music; it’s when all those Manchester and 4AD bands really make sense.

My favorite fall album always changes, but this week, it’s been The Jesus and Mary Chain’s Darklands.

What are your favorite fall albums?

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