Cocteau Twins – Four Calendar Cafe

Cocteau Twins

Artist: Cocteau Twins
Album: Four Calendar Cafe
Released: 1993
Label: Capitol
Genre: Pop (Ambient Dream Pop)
Format: CD
Musicians:Elizabeth Fraser-vocals, Robin Guthrie-guitars, Simon Raymonde-Multi-Instrumentalist. Additional musicians on this album: Ben Blakeman-guitars, Mitsuo Fong-guitars
Producer: Cocteau Twins
Engineer: Lincoln Fong

This is also available on vinyl, but I have the CD. It doesn’t make much sense to me to have the vinyl version if drum machines are used and the recording  is pure digital.

Cocteau Twins were a Scottish rock band active from 1979 to 1997. The original members were singer Elizabeth Fraser, guitarist Robin Guthrie and bassist Will Heggie, who was replaced by multi-instrumentalist Simon Raymonde in 1983.  For some reason, they were/are popular with those into goth music as it were even though this group is not goth. The group has earned much critical praise for its innovative, ethereal sound and the distinctive soprano vocals of Fraser. They are much closer to Post Rock and more accurately, Ambient Dream Pop.

They named themselves Cocteau Twins after a song called “The Cocteau Twins” by a fellow Scottish group called Johnny and the Self-Abusers who would later re-name themselves: Simple Minds (yes, that Simple Minds). You can find more info here: and here:

The album took its title from William Least Heat-Moon’s book Blue Highways, in which the author considers the quality of a restaurant by how many calendars it has hanging on its wall.

Sadly, a drum machine is used instead of actual drums and there are two particular tracks where it is most annoying: “My Truth” and “Pur”. The use of drum machines really annoys me. That said, I know there are a few drum machines out there that are very sophisticated and do sound decent. It also depends on how the recording engineering is done.

Here’s my take on the tracks of this LP:

  1. Know who you are at every age – Good opener in my opinion. It has a nice chill feel to it.
  2. Evangeline – Good vocals on this one, but the music is not as pleasant.
  3. Bluebeard – Kind of a feel good tune. Vocals seem slightly washed. There is an interesting use of Afro-vocal styling (kind of call and response) in this song. Good track. Lyrics are in Scottish.
  4. Theft, and wandering around lost – Vocals kind of washed out on this as well.
  5. Oil of Angels – This is my least favorite track, it’s sort of artistic avant-garde vocals.
  6. Squeeze-Wax – Interesting bass line on this song, vocals sound deliberately over-processed for effect, but not annoying ,but kind of hard to understand, plenty of shimmering guitar on this track.
  7. My Truth – Bad Drum machine on this track, really annoying, plus the guitars seem a bit too far back and the vocals are  a bit washed again.
  8. Essence – Very ethereal sounding and appropriate for this song in my opinion. Vocals are well featured.
  9. Summerhead – This is the hardest song on the album, vocals are minimally processed and slightly set back, good percussion on this track despite the use of a machine (might have used a more sophisticated machine here or done some extra good engineering work), this is a pleasant listen though.
  10. Pur – Obvious drum machine on this again at first, but improves about 2 minutes into the song. This song has kind of a dark feel to it.

Know who you are at every age:

Sound: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_stars

Music: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_and_a_half_stars


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