Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cocteau Twins - A Rough Guide

"Cocteau Twins were a Scottish alternative rock band active from 1979 to
1997. The band were named after the song 'The Cocteau Twins' by fellow
Scotsmen 'Johnny and the Self-Abusers' (who later renamed themselves
Simple Minds)."  [Wikipedia]

The two core members of the band were guitarist Robyn Guthrie and
singer Elizabeth Fraser.  According to Wikipedia:
"At times barely decipherable, Fraser seemed to veer into glossolalia
and mouth music. Allmusic reviewer Ned Raggett writes that 'part of her
appeal is how she can make hard-to-interpret lyrics so emotionally

Although the band had long since broken up, I only started listening to
its music recently.  There is that Eighties-style atmosphere, but
Fraser's vocals sets the band's music apart and renders it timeless.
The hard-to-understand lyrics only adds to the band's lasting appeal.
I'm sure I could find the lyrics on the 'net, but for now I'd prefer to
keep a little mystery.

The band's official website:

The links in the guide below are to YouTube movies.  If the links
are blocked, you can try viewing clips in Quicktime format via the
official site:

The "rough guide" ...

1. "Heaven or Las Vegas"
I've decided to kick things off with the title track from the band's
sixth album, released in 1990.  "Heaven or Las Vegas" is considered by
many critics and fans as the band's best album.  It was also the band's
biggest commercial success.

2. "Ivo"
This is the opening track from the band's third album, "Treasure",
released in 1984.  While earlier albums had their moments, on "Treasure"
the band was really starting to get it together.

3. "Carolyn's Fingers"
This is the music video for a single from the band's fifth album, "Blue
Bell Knoll", released in 1988.

4. "For Phoebe Still A Baby"
This album track from "Blue Bell Knoll" always manages to send a chill
up and down my spine.  Excuse the home-made fan video, but unfortunately
there's no official video for this ethereal song.

5. "A Kissed Out Red Floatboat"
Another haunting and blissful album track from "Blue Bell Knoll".

6. "Iceblink Luck"
This is the first single from 1990's landmark "Heaven or Las Vegas".

7. "I Wear Your Ring"
Another great album track from the filler-free "Heaven or Las Vegas".
As pointed out in one of the comments, this song combines multiple vocal
tracks to great effect.

8. "Bluebeard"
The second single from the band's seventh album, "Four-Calendar Café",
released in 1993.  This album is considered the most "accessible",
mainly because Fraser's lyrics are more clearly understandable.

9. "Oil of Angels"
One of my personal favourites from "Four-Calendar Café".  Another song
that sends chills up and down my spine.  Angels indeed!

10. "Pur"
The final track on "Four-Calendar Café".  This fan-made clip has English
"subtitles" to help the listener work out the lyrics.  I think the song
is dedicated to Fraser's daughter.

11. "Half-Gifts"
"Milk & Kisses" was the band's eighth and final studio album, released
in 1996.  Fittingly, this is a break-up song for the break-up album.
This is a stripped-back version from a promo video.

12. "Seekers Who Are Lovers" (Live)
This is a live version of the last track from "Milk & Kisses".

It wasn't easy trying to pick just 12 songs the songs from the band's
large repertoire.  On another day I probably would've picked a different
set of songs.

This is a band I wish I'd known about when it was still together.  I'm
sure I would've looked forward to each new release, wondering if it
could top previous efforts.  Oh well, better late than never.

Bonus tracks:
Check out some of the Elizabeth Fraser's collaborations, for example:
* This Mortal Coil: "Song to the Siren"
* Massive Attack: "Teardrop", "Black Milk", "Group Four" (Mezzanine)
* "All Flowers In Time Bend Towards The Sun", a duet with Jeff Buckley