4 December 2013

Cocteau Twins - Heaven Or Las Vegas

It's a name I've seen floating about on the scene for at least 25 years and I will concede that I never really paid too much attention to them at all but I can't sustain it any longer as the Cocteau Twins MORE than warrants a listen. In terms of the echelons of alternative rock, the Twins are well up there in the annals. Grangemouth, a Scottish industrial town more noted for its oil refineries was the birthplace for what would be one of the more seminal and important dream pop acts.

The 'Twins' frontwoman Elizabeth Fraser first came to my attention about 1995, when she contributed to Future Sound Of London's Life Forms which featured some rather strange vocals. Beautiful, crisp and yet sometimes unfathomable, although this was before I discovered that Miss Fraser has a history of coming up with some inaudible lyricisms. Best described as leftfield and all very addictive I thought. However, the "siblings" Cocteau were soon to disband for good during recording sessions for their ninth album with little prospect of completion.

This is their sixth record of their discography, Heaven Or Las Vegas, and it's their most successful to date as proclaimed by the 4AD record boss (ironically, the two parties went their separate ways several months later citing musical differences). It's also where they peaked creatively but behind this were several demons that guitarist Robin Guthrie was fighting as well as drugs issues which would in the end lead to the CT's demise.

This musical content is a consistent and concerted effort, there's multi-layering in Miss Fraser's vocals blending in with leads-follow-harmonies-follow-leads. The lyrics are understandable although there's a suspicion of whimsical thinking and free reign in the penning while Guthrie's six string are reminiscent of Johnny Marr's and the Cure. I'm often caught out judging albums on each individual track, but it's easy to forget that albums are formed by the whole basic instrumentation, so there are no tracks that stand out from each other.

However, that's not to say Heaven Or Las Vegas is a boring album, far from it. Its artistic approach I think can be best described as a watercolour, its impact and message is subtle and discreet but resounding. The title track for instance has bassist Simon Raymonde taking leads while final track Frou Frou Foxes In Midsummer Fires is a brief departure from the dream pop with more basic acoustic trait. There's a precursor of a Peter Hook bassline in Pitch The Baby following Fraser's calm but high notes on Cherry-Coloured Funk backed up by the watery styled strings.

Lyrically intriguing, acoustically enchanting although it's unique enough not to feel confined to the eighties, The Cocteau Twins were always carving their own niche in the alternative rock scene and having listened to what was probably their zenith, I can only imagine that Heaven Or Las Vegas was the perfect tonic if Simple Minds were a bit political for your tastes or if U2 were drawing too much inspiration from past heroes. Sadly they were yet another case in point as the future unfolded that all good things come to an end far too soon.

9 out of ten. Almost perfect....almost.

Listen to Heaven Or Las Vegas here on Deezer
Cocteau Twins Official Website on this link

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