Cocteau Twins

Lullabies to Violaine

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AllMusic Review by

Even if it had been available only in a steel box stuffed with thousands of Styrofoam peanuts, Lullabies to Violaine would be a welcomed and indispensable part of Cocteau Twins' discography. In just about every way imaginable, the compilation outdoes the title-less ten-disc singles box released by 4AD in the early '90s. It certainly looks and feels different: the sturdy flip-top box of old housed the singles in individual jewel cases, while this set squishes most of the old contents, and then some, into four discs that are wrapped in a foldout package that seems to be made of an exotic wintertime plant, which is then encased in a rice-paper-like sheath. You'd be wise not to handle the thing more than a couple times. In fact, just to be cautious, you probably shouldn't stare at it too long. Completists might be miffed to discover that it is missing a few things that the old box did contain, such as the 12" mixes of "Peppermint Pig" and "Pearly Dewdrops' Drops," and the four tracks that appeared on a bonus disc. Robin Guthrie also substituted a couple alternate mixes, but as he argued on his weblog, it's not a big deal: "It's a singles and EPs record, all the singles are there, where is the f*cking problem?" (Well, here's one problem: "Millimillenary," a gorgeous track left to languish on the out-of-print The Pink Opaque, shouldn't have been excluded.) The old box covered the 4AD years and therefore held the singles through Heaven or Las Vegas. This one covers the same ground on the first two discs; discs three and four cover the remaining A-sides, B-sides, and EP tracks through Milk & Kisses (secretly the band's third or fourth best album). Since the Cocteaus typically put the same amount of energy into their singles and EPs as their albums, Lullabies to Violaine features a prolific sum of prime material. The sheer breadth of content is a major factor, but the set is, by a wide margin, the best way to hear how this band consistently developed and constantly switched tacks, from punishing and stark, to elegant and dense, and many places between. It also doesn't hurt that the sound is pristine, improving upon whatever murkiness was audible in the initial round of CD issues. You might call all of the content amorphous goop, but the Cocteaus covered a wide range of emotions with a large set of colors, no matter how blurred they were at times. In fact, "The Spangle Maker," with its tidal structure and mixture of dread and bliss, indicates this in less than five minutes. There are 59 tracks in all, and they're not all overflowing with dreamy exotic genius, but they do form the equivalent of six good-to-tremendous stand-alone albums. For the fans who didn't go any deeper than the studio albums, this will be almost exactly like falling in love with the band for the first time. [4AD also split this into two separate volumes.]

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1
4:37 Amazon
2
3:55 Amazon
3
4:01 Amazon
4
3:49 Amazon
5
4:02 Amazon
6
4:01 Amazon
7
4:59 Amazon
8
3:04 Amazon
9
3:35 Amazon
10
3:38 Amazon
11
3:34 Amazon
12
2:49 Amazon
13
3:15 Amazon
14
3:00 Amazon
15
3:16 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick