One afternoon toward the end of 88 I was hanging out at Record Service in Campustown when the folks behind the counter slipped Blue Bell Knoll, the first US release from the Scottish trio Cocteau Twins, onto the turntable (perhaps into the CD player was more likely?). By the time “Carolyn’s Fingers,” the third track, came over the PA, I was ready to plunk down some hard-earned cash for the album. It was among the last pieces of new vinyl I purchased.
It’s a mighty fine record (the other really great song on it is “The Itchy Glowbo Blow“–it is much, much better than the title!), though darned if I can understand a single word Elizabeth Fraser is singing through the whole thing; it’s all about mood and texture. Over the next few years, I dug into some of both their previous and subsequent work. Much of it is very good, and many of the early highlights can be found on the 85 compilation The Pink Opaque. I also like their 90 CD Heaven or Las Vegas quite a bit. But it only seems to be on Knoll that Fraser chose to be quite so incomprehensible.
The Cocteaus’ guitarist, Robin Guthrie, had a hand in the early days of Lush, one of my favorite 90s bands. They’ll get their turn being featured here one of these days.
Soon after I moved back to Lexington in 92, I spent a number of Friday nights hanging out with college friends at one of their homes. A CD that got played at those gatherings more than occasionally was MTV: Best of 120 Minutes, Vol. 1. When “Carolyn’s Fingers” came on, James and Amy were certain to do their best (?) to mimic Fraser’s fluttering high notes (they were also known to give a shot at imitating the bagpipes on “Under the Milky Way”).