The old cowboy movie saying “This towns not big enough for the two of us..” usually implies that two powerful forces are in a place where they can not co exist. To some extent that was the case with the Cocteau Twins. When the band appeared on the scene in 1982 with their debut Garlands, they had a somewhat distinctive sound, although not quite the sound they would be known for yet. Part of that was due to the influence of Will Heggie, one of the original trio that included Robin Guthrie and Elizabeth Fraser.
It’s safe to assume that Heggie and Guthrie were responsible for the carefully curated goth sound the band crafted. It was heavy on guitars with very organic sounding synths, in the way that Siouxsie and The Banshees or early Cure once was. When Heggie left after the release of Garlands and the EP that followed Peppermit Pig, the Cocteau Twins were down to two members for the recording of their third LP Head Over Heels.
Heggie’s departure was the best thing for the band from a creative perspective. Suddenly Fraser’s vocal style opened up to new ethereal heights. Her voice would soar and perform musical acrobatics around what was becoming a solid wall of sound like on “Musette and Drums”. There were even trace elements of scatting on “Multifoiled, although no one knew what Elizabeth was saying in her regular singing style anyway.
Head Over Heels was free of the repetition that Garlands was known for and in the process of breaking out of the shadow of bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Cocteau Twins were on their way to a new signature sound, a sound dominated by looped guitars and Fraser’s heavenly voice.
It would not be long before the band became known as one of the most exciting and original sounds of the ’80s. Before Head Over Heels, the Cocteau Twins were hardly a DNA molecule away from other 4AD bands, that was until the distorted looped guitar effects of Head Over Heels would set them apart as a wholly new species of sound.
The rest would be history, as the band went through a quick succession of EPs on their way to the early period masterpieces like Treasure (1984), Tiny Dynamite (1985) and Love’s Easy Tears (86). Original versions of Head Over Heels included the EP Sunburst and Snowblind, making it’s $24 U.S. import price a bit easier to stomach, but nowadays Cocteau Twins back catalog material can be downloaded without the import penalty. A remastering in 2003 by Robin Guthrie omitted the EP.