The first of 4AD owner Ivo Watts-Russell's multi-artist studio sessions under the This Mortal Coil name, 1984's It'll End in Tears was a surprisingly influential album in many circles, key in the reawakening of interest in artists like Alex Chilton and the late Tim Buckley by a younger generation of listeners. (Two songs from Big Star's Third are included, a version of "Kangaroo" featuring Cindytalk vocalist Gordon Sharp that sounds even druggier and more disorienting than the original, and a chilling piano and strings version of "Holocaust" with haunted vocals by Howard Devoto; the simple but ravishing version of Buckley's "Song to the Siren" by Cocteau Twins Liz Fraser and Robin Guthrie was cited by David Lynch as the direct inspiration for Julee Cruise's first two albums and has since been used several times in commercials and films.) The covers are the most memorable part of the album -- a Robbie Grey-sung version of Colin Newman's "Not Me," cleverly incorporating a hypnotic riff from another Newman song, "B," is the most conventionally hooky song on the album, to the point that folks who haven't listened to the album for a while tend to forget that half of the songs are "band" originals. These six songs mark 4AD's definitive break from its origins as an artsy post-punk imprint (Bauhaus, Modern English's first few records, etc.) to the development of "the 4AD sound," a heavily reverbed wash of treated guitars and atmospheric keyboards with vocals treated as another instrument in an amorphous wash of sound. The problem is that these largely instrumental tracks sound more like half-baked studio doodles than fully formed songs; a three-song stretch on side two featuring Dead Can Dance's Lisa Gerrard is particularly tiresome. As a whole, It'll End in Tears is a lovely, often exquisite record; taken individually, the power of some of the songs is lost.
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AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason