Friday, June 10, 2011

FDF Volume 3 Issue 228 : Cocteau Twins - Heaven Or Las Vegas

By: March

Album – Heaven or Las Vegas
Artist – Cocteau Twins
Key Players – Simon Raymonde – bass. Robin Guthrie -guitars, drum programming. Elizabeth Fraser – vocals.
Produced By – Cocteau Twins

Release Date – September 17, 1990

What caused me to blow off the dust? Been working on a bunch of music based “lists” with a buddy for a few weeks. A few weeks back it was to list our favorite female vocalists. I was always drawn to Elizabeth Fraser and she was on the list right away, but I realized it had been a little time since I spent any time with a full on listen. So, here you have it.

Overview – Formed in Grangemouth, Scotland in 1979 the Cocteau Twins would create lush sounds blending gothic rock, post punk and “atmosphere”. The trio would create complex works and vocalist Elizabeth Fraser would sing “non lyrically”. It is hard to describe other than it comes down to the fact you won't care even what she is trying to say as it is so pretty. They'd release ep's and albums over their career to critical praise, but chart success would elude the band. They'd break up during the recording of their 9th studio release.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) – Right from the start of “Cherry – Coloured Funk” you are stuck with the beauty of the bands sound. The guitar shimmers like water on a pond as Fraser soars over. You long to understand the lyrics, what it is she is singing, but they are hard to break down. It is not skat singing by any means, just this haunting feeling. Raymonde has a nice even bass line allowing for Guthrie to keep the guitar at the forefront. “Pitch the Baby” has a similar sound (most of the record does). The track is a little quicker tempo wise and Guthrie does a little more on the guitar, but the sound scapes just swirl all around you. “Iceblink Luck” has more of the drum programming and Raymonde has his bass brought up in the mix. Fraser sings, and her range is kept in check, but she has a nice pitch to her voice and Raymonde will compliment with a swooping loss bass run as Guthrie works the programming aspect. One of the “go to” songs on the record and in their catalog. I always chuckle during this song as I am convinced she sings about “cherry cola”. Hey, its what happens when you make up lyrics. The band has their first good “jam” as the track swells with the drums more in the mix and much more urgent. The vocals come in one more time and the song wraps up. It cools down some on “Fifty-Fifty Clown” as single note is resonated by Raymonde. Guthrie and Fraser work their way in and the song holds its own. The title track, “Heaven or Las Vegas”, follows. The guitars really have a cool early 1990's feel to them (think late 80's with the Cure's sound) but for the first time there seems like guitars are overdubbed which is a nice touch. Raymonde compliments the guitar nicely and the drum programming is basic but effective. Fraser sounds awesome on this track. As stated you are dying to understand why she is saying, but okay at the same time with not knowing. The first real “guitar” solo is a buzzy, highly compressed burst from Guthrie but the drums come back around and Fraser gives the “chorus” another run. Having a little bit of a samba feel “I Wear Your Ring” changes gears and has more of a droned out, swooping keyboard line before Fraser sings in a little lower register. This is the first track I've noticed that the vocals go in to the fade at the end. Speaking of fades we have a quick fade up on “Fotzepolitic” before the guitar hits. The bass has a neat groove to it again and that resonates for the duration. If you can say “this sounds mid-tempo” on this record “Wolf in the Breast” would find itself there. There is is a cool guitar/feedback swirl from Guthrie at one point. Musically “Road, River and Rail” the most haunting sounding but still has the shining vocals. The album concludes with “Frou-frou Foxes in Midsummer Fires” The vocals are strong and soaring once more with a big wall of guitar feel to boot. One of the longer tracks on the disc, the band chose to fade vocally to end this as well.

Where are they now? - The band broke up in 1997. The band sites internal struggles but also noted Guthrie was having substance abuse issues. Guthrie and Raymonde would form “Bella Union” and work as producers early on. They'd also release solo albums. Fraser has been working as well, providing lead and backing vocals with the band Massive Attack as well as soundtrack work (Lord of the Rings). There are rumors she has been working on a solo release as well. The band works on doing podcasts, but haven't been seen together on stage since 2007 when they accepted an award.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) – I never saw the band live. There was a glimmer the band might reform in 2005 for the Coachella music festival, but three months after the annoucment they band pulled out.

FDF Overall Take – This is a late in the evening type of band. You can't put this on at a party and expect guests to hang out any longer. Put this on later, as some candles bounce in view and you'll will find the magic right away. Not something I could listen to every day, but when the mood hits there are few bands that can scratch the itch so quickly.

Official Site here. Fan site here

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

The album is out of print but you can find it easily, starting here


At 1:08 PM, Anonymous BBS said...

Love love love this record for the late night wind down.


Post a Comment

<< Home