Originally released in 2005 as a four disc set and then split into two volumes of two discs each, Lullabies to Violaine collects all of the odds and ends of Cocteau Twins’ discography. With very few notable omissions, all of the singles and extended plays are represented here. For a basic collector like myself who doesn’t like driving myself mad looking for everything by bands I love, this kind of compilation is perfect. I already have the albums, so a compilation set of all of the non-LP tracks and alternative versions of songs is perfect when I’m looking to fill most, if not all of the holes in my collection.
It’s even chronologically sequenced, which is more than you can say for my “Off The Rack” entries about Cocteau Twins. “Why,” you may be asking, “if you have all of the albums did you skip everything after Blue Bell Knoll and decide to go directly to the compilations?” That’s a good question – and I even have an answer for it! Two answers, actually…
First, I decided that since it was December and since Lullabies to Violaine contains the only two holiday-themed songs ever performed by the group, I’d better listen to it now or not get to it for another year. I have a strict rule against listening to December holiday music outside of December (or even past the 25th, to be honest) if I can avoid it – I certainly don’t play it myself! Since skipping tracks is not an option I am going to entertain – it’s all or nothing in the world of OTR – to keep the holiday music where it belongs, I’m listening to this set now. I don’t anticipate encountering this “problem” very often.
Secondly, I realised that with Blue Bell Knoll, I had completed listening to all of the Cocteau Twins albums from the 1980s. Everything else is from the 1990s, starting with Heaven or Las Vegas. Since the group had so many singles and EPs released in-between and alongside their albums, it actually felt natural to complete the 1980s by listening to what wasn’t necessarily contained on the albums and then do the same with the 1990s before delving into those albums. I probably should have done this with Past Masters when I listened through my collection of albums by The Beatles.
The first volume of Lullabies to Violaine covers 1982 through 1990. The second covers 1993 through 1996. The liner notes delineate where each set of tracks was originally divided into their various original releases. The name of the compilation is actually taken from the names of the first and final EPs. Lullabies was released in 1982 while Violaine closed things out in 1996.
Listening through this set, despite it’s generous four disc, four hour running time, is like a quicker version of revisiting the history and evolution of the group. Lullabies and Peppermint Pig (the first six songs on disc one) are quite the bursts of post-punk. By the time one hears songs from Sunburst and Snowblind, things are taking a dreamier turn, although the group isn’t quite there yet. There is a lovely 12” version of “Sugar Hiccup” along with the shimmering “From the Flagstones” and “Hitherto” but “Because of Whirl-Jack” sounds like a close sibling to “In Our Angelhood,” from Head Over Heels.
In case you ever want to know where Claire Voyant stole the inspiration to the bassline for “Close To Me,” take a listen to the title cut of The Spangle Maker. More notable though is “Pearly-Dewdrop’s Drops,” which is a great starting point for the newcomer wanting to know what Cocteau twins sound like. It was also their first song to get the music video treatment. On Lullabies to Violaine it is presented as an “alternate version,” but I’m hard-pressed to tell you how it differs from any other versions of the song I’ve heard. There’s a 7” version of the song from The Pink Opaque, but I feel like I’d really have to examine each track closely to figure out the exact differences between the two. It’s not something which particularly bothers me.
In all, nine EPs are represented on the first two discs of Lullabies to Violaine and the amount of overlap with what was released on the proper LPs is staggeringly low. Cocteau Twins treated their singles and EPs with the same care with which they treated their albums. In considering ratio of remixes and edits to original material, the balance greatly favours the latter. Perhaps if I didn’t love this group so much, I would find this annoying (for the casual fan who just wanted quick compilations, there was The Pink Opaque which was later replaced by Stars and Topsoil - I own neither). However, as I’ve said before, I own all of the original albums, so having a compilation of highlights from those is useless to me. This complements and completes my collection.
Tomorrow I listen to the second half of this set – yes, the version I own is not the original four-disc package, but the two part split. Could you not tell by the title of this entry?