“From the Flagstones”
The Pink Opaque
Two tracks into this thing and already my recall proves faulty. I was certain the Cocteau Twins’ The Pink Opaque collection was something I pulled from the import case at Digital Daze back in the day, but the internet is telling me otherwise. The compilation album was designed to introduce the Cocteau Twins to the US market as their first domestic release, so clearly my memory is wrong. But regardless of whether the disc was an import or not, my love of the contents within remains secure.
There were plenty of options for a Cocteau Twins inclusion on the playlist, but I ultimately went with my favorite ’80s Cocteau Twins song: “From the Flagstones”. As gorgeous as songs like “Millimillenary”, “Wax and Wane”, and “Carolyn’s Fingers” are (and I used to love losing myself in Elizabeth Fraser’s floating, indiscernible enunciation), I guess because I am a writer I was always drawn to “From the Flagstones”, if only because there was a hint of maybe being able to figure out the lyrics.
With acts like Cocteau Twins, Clan of Xymox, and the label super-group, This Mortal Coil, 4AD made a name for itself in the ’80s with a stable of artists that tread ethereal ground. Among the shoegazers-before-the-genre-was-invented bands, Cocteau Twins is required listening. Fraser’s unique delivery owes as much to her Scottish accent as it does her placing emphasis within words and phrases in unexpected places. Pair her vocals with Robin Guthrie’s guitar and bass work and the compositions shimmer.
More than the bizarro ramblings of Throwing Muses (actual lyrics: “Pushing a ribcage makes it hard to breathe”), more than the folk-influenced approach of Dead Can Dance, Cocteau Twins’ incomprehensible lyrics and lush composition were always my favorite. They required an altered state (not necessarily chemically altered, so much as just a refocusing). You don’t listen to the Cocteau Twins, a counterbalance to the angst-y force of a Ministry or Nine Inch Nails, before heading out to the bars in college. It’s more “settling in for a night of writing reflective poetry and journal scribblings.” That’s pretty much where I was as a 19 year-old creative writing major at the time, and “From the Flagstones” fit perfectly in that soundtrack.