Review Summary: The dark and edgy beginning of Cocteau Twins.
The thing about the Cocteau Twins that interests me the most is how much their sound changed in a manner of only two years. "Treasure" was released 1984, often considered their magnum opus along with "Heaven or Las Vegas". The sound of "Garlands" differs almost completely from that of "Treasure". Garlands is much more subdued, darker and mid-tempo than Treasure yet it is by far inferior to Treasure. The sound of Garlands also is post-punk and new-wavish while Treasure is their first true album in which they mastered the dream pop sound that the band is so well-known for. Garlands is not a bad album by no means, it is just different.
Garlands is a post-punk album, this point was brought up in the last paragraph but this noticed right off the bat on the song "Blood Bitch". The sound is subdued and trippy, pretty much the overall sound of the album is like this. However, what can be noticed right away is the Siouxsie and The Banshees influence, a Cure-like sound and beat that reminds me of "Carnage Visors". While it is unfair to say Cocteau Twins ripped off the sound of Siouxsie and The Banshees and The Cure, it is so similar to the sound of both of these bands. The thing is Post-Punk is not a genre known for variation. A lot of bands sound similar to each other, the big four of Proto-Goth (Bauhaus, The Cure, Siouxsie and The Banshees, and Joy Division) all sound rather similar on their first albums. "Blood Bitch" is more of like a subdued down-tempo version of Kaleidoscope era Siouxsie mixed with a hint of The Cure Faith era, sprinkle in some Bauhaus and you have the main influences of "Blood Bitch". "Blood Bitch" is what the album mostly sounds like, the distorted guitars, the programmed drum beats, the Siouxsie influenced Elizabeth Fraser singing in tongues is the only thing that differs this band from the average post-punk band.
Wax and Wane is the most well-known song off of this album, in fact, most fans of Deftones may have heard of this band due to The Deftones doing a cover of this song. The song is more up-tempo compared to that of Blood Bitch or even the rest of the album (one of the main flaws of this album). The lotus-like sound of the catchy guitar line in the song, the catchy chorus in the song, everything is catchy about this song. The guitar line is reminiscent of that of "Spellbound" from Siouxsie and The Banshees off of their album "Juju". The most poppy song off of this post-punk album is Wax and Wane compared to the hit or miss of the second side of Garlands. If anything, Wax and Wane is the reason to even buy this album.
The main problem with this album is variation of the sound. The album sounds rather monotonous but that is the main issue with the post-punk genre in general. This is the main problem with "Shallow Then Halo", it is a more menacing song compared to the lackluster "But I'm Not", but it sounds dry compared to the more menacing and melancholic releases by other archetypal post-punk bands. The audio production for this album is actually loud compared to most post-punk bands but this is also its own weakness. The music production of this album is too polished for the genre in which this album is considered to be. Punk and post-punk albums tend to have a more unpolished and lo-fi like sound compared to the polished and dry sound that Garlands. This contributes to some of the songs sounding rather monotonous and boring at times. That is the main problem with this album.
Overall, besides a few issues with audio production and monotonous beats and sounds, this is a solid album and I recommend it to anyone who likes Dream Pop, Shoegazer Rock, and Post-Punk/Gothic music.