Garlands is the 1982 debut album of Cocteau Twins. It is the only album with original bassist Will Heggie and his chugging basslines give the album a distinctive sound. Robin Guthrie, by his own admission, had no idea how a studio worked at the time, but was confident enough in his burgeoning ability to get involved in the production, along with label owner Ivo Watts-Russell. The result is an album, and a guitar sound, with a strangled, constricted range and a dark ambience. In the post-punk world of the early 1980s the influence of Siouxsie and the Banshees and other proto-goths is clear, but the beginning of the trademark ethereal Twins sound is also here, especially in Elizabeth Fraser's curious and indecipherable vocals.
The songs are simple, repetitive and haunting, with guitar, vocals, bass and the lo-fi drum machine usually entering separately and building to a climax, as on "Grail Overfloweth". Other songs, notably "Wax and Wane" and "Blind Dumb Deaf", are built around a simple repetitive guitar refrain that is almost Robert Fripp-like in its minimalism.
The album made a huge impression at the time with its distinctive sound, a still embryonic sound which the band would continue to develop over the succeeding albums and other releases. Garlands ended the year as one of the best-selling 'indy' albums, helped by the fact that band was championed by BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel. With the nurturing of label boss Ivo Watts-Russell, who also co-produced the album, and the band's participation in the successful first This Mortal Coil album, the Cocteau Twins soon became the iconic 4AD band.
With her often opaque textured singing style, Elizabeth Fraser's lyrics were a source of debate from the start, though Garlands is one of the few Cocteau Twins releases to feature any printed lyrics, albeit only a few lines from "But I'm Not", "Blind Dumb Deaf", "Shallow Then Halo", "Garlands", and "Grail Overfloweth".
All songs composed by the Cocteau Twins. *The title printed on the sleeve reads, Shallow Then Hallo [sic].
The original British cassette release included four additional tracks from a John Peel Radio session. The original British and Canadian CD releases featured the album, the Peel session and two other tracks that were recorded for an unreleased single which was to have been the band's first release. Gordon Sharp of Cindytalk provided backup vocals on "Dear Heart" and "Hazel".
A remixed version of Wax and Wane is available on the 1985 compilation The Pink Opaque. The four Peel Session recordings were later released as part of BBC Sessions in 1999, and a version of "Hazel" appears on the Peppermint Pig EP, released in 1983. A remastered version of "Blind Dumb Deaf" is available on the 2000 compilation Stars and Topsoil.
Produced by Ivo Watts-Russell and Cocteau Twins. Engineered by Eric and John at Blackwing Studios.
The art direction, photography and sleeve design were created by 23 Envelope and a dedication is printed on the sleeve: Dear Carol, We shall both die in your rosary : Elizabeth, which incorporates a line, in a slightly altered form, from the song "Garlands".