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  Stars and Topsoil, a collection (1982-1990)  
  Cocteau Twins  
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This is a compilation of the Cocteau Twins' work on 4AD, the label that they began their career with. It is not all inclusive, since they left that label a full 8 years before the end of their career and such later work is not represented. However, it is important to remember that their mid-80's work on 4AD was groundbreaking. They were making music like no one else.

And it's all here.

Of course any compilation from an established band is going to incite intense Internet debate among the fans. And indeed, the CT-list has had much discussion of this compilation. I'll go ahead and admit now that i am a rabid Cocteau Twins fan. I have all of these songs on their original releases. I have many bootlegs. I can have meaningful discussions on the relative merits of the Pink Opaque mix as opposed to the EP mix of Aikea-guinea. So i am kinda biased.

Much of the Internet debate has been on why some songs were missed (where is Blue Bell Knoll?) and why certain others are included (Watchlar?). These fan debates never have any real conclusion, so i won't go into the things that were said there. However, i have a theory about compilation CDs. When you get down to it, the whole point of a retrospective compilation like this is to serve as a convenient spot for casual listeners and new listeners to get introduced to, or get more familiar with, the music. Serious fans have all of these tracks anyway, and even though they will buy it they are not the intended audience.

And as an introduction to the Twins' music i think Stars and Topsoil does a fine job. It showcases the Twins' awesome production and their unique choice of instrumentation. Plus, Elizabeth Fraser's voice, arguably the real "draw" of the band, shines really well in this selection of songs.

The thing i like is that it showcases both their pop songs, like Sugar Hiccup and Carolyn's Fingers, as well as their more experimental work, like the vocal epic that is Pink Orange Red or the sweetly washed out haze and sax of Lazy Calm. Although the songs occur in chronological order, there is a certain sort of logic to their flow. Listening to the compilation, i am amazed at how consistent the Cocteau Twins have been in their work.

I am sure that not all casual listeners will like the whole thing. But if it gets some listening, if it sells more copies of Victorialand, then it's a good thing.

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