Monday 10 April 2023

Cocteau Twins - Evangeline

I was totally disappointed when Four-Calendar Cafe came out in 1993. What happened to the sublime? Why were they sad instead of ecstatic? Why were they trying to sound like they wanted to be on American radio? Why were there so many more recognisable words than usual? Why did they release such a pissweak album? Less than seven listens in I gave the cd away. I tried to wipe it from my memory. I mean the recent-one-two punch of Blue Bell Knoll (88) then Heaven Or Las Vegas (90) was so glorious. I just wanted to live that vibe. And the Sugar Hiccup (83) to Love's Easy Tears (87) run of 45s vibe and the other one two album punch of Head Over Heals (83) and Treasure (84). I would forever just hold on to them as the 4AD group. Whatever they did after that on another label we'll just ignore. Just try to quietly forget the fact that they'd fallen from grace and faded away into artistic inconsequence. 

I was forgetting something though. The Cocteau Twins had slumped before, you know with Victorialand (86). An LP I've listened to many times but couldn't tell you the name of one track. This was an easy album to overlook though as they released so much good music between 1983 and 1990 there was enough great stuff, you could forget a record and it didn't matter. 

By 1993 though we had been waiting for three years for a record. In the mean time a bunch of kids had stolen their sounds and made them less good in their shoegaze groups Slowdive, Lush etc. So you know you don't wanna release an album so inferior that a band of b-grade imitators are going to outdo you. Some might say Slowdive's Souvlaki is better than Four Calendar Cafe and historical consensus does seem to favour that narrative. By late 93 I couldn't have cared less though as I didn't like either. Recently though I've come round to Souvlaki so I know in all fairness I need to reassess Four-Calendar Cafe.

Evangeline keeps popping its head up in my world and yeah guess what? I've become somewhat enamoured by it. I've had to compartmentalise the Cocteau Twins into their two distinctive record company stints though. So you've got the supreme golden era of the 4AD years 1982 -1990. Then you've got the less incandescent Fontana twilight years 1993 - 1998. 

In the 90s I did end up getting the final LP Milk & Kisses (1995) and those Fontana EPs probably twelve or eighteen months after release when they were cheap and in the 2nd hand bin. I recall liking some of the material, the more dubby out there type of stuff. When a seminally influential band becomes a chaser of a sound though, it seems a bit sad. Even if the sound they're following was influenced by them in the first place. Anywhoo I could'n't name or hum a tune from Twilights or Violaine. Perhaps I've underestimated the twilight years era. I hope that I've been absolutely wrong for thirty years. We'll see...

Anyway back to Evangeline the 1993 single. This is like an answer song to the dream pop they helped create (Julee Cruise, Lush etc.) except it's better, more emotional and in a class of its own. It's like they're saying yeah thanks that's flattering and all but we've got real emotional depth beneath the pop sheen. Plus they just up the ante don't they? with a preposterous key change that before you have time to throw your hands up in exasperation you realise it works just perfectly. BAM the masters have nailed it, goosebumps jackpot and the acolytes should be sheepish. Can't deny thirty years later Evangeline is one of the great Cocteaus moments.


  1. Cannot help but agreeing with every line of your text! They never sounded insincere to me though; Fontana years are not 4ad surely but then there is the Otherness ep with Seefeel Mark Clifford revisiting, and that is an all time high for me.

  2. I must dig out that ep from my cobwebby cd boxes. I know that was the one I actually liked.