Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Cocteau Twins. It’s because Massive Attack is touring “Mezzanine,” and they’re bringing Cocteau vocalist Elizabeth Fraser to sing “Teardrop,” and a few others she wrote with them. That’s super exciting! As a sidenote, Liz and Massive Attack are going to be at the Hollywood Palladium at the end of March.
But back to the Cocteau’s … in expressing my enthusiasm for this seemingly once-in-a-lifetime event, it occurred to me that very few know anything about the Cocteau’s, or their immense contribution to alternative music.
So let’s rectify that …
“Heaven of Las Vegas” is the Cocteau Twins most popular and accessible song they’ve released. It’s the title track from the 1990 album of the same name. And it marked a significant shift towards mainstream acceptance. Keep in mind, the Scottish trio were, up until this point, a relatively obscure band, still guarded by the seminal 4AD Records label. Prior to this, they had a minor hit with “Carolyn’s Fingers.” But it wasn’t until “Heaven or Las Vegas” that the world at large got the full dose of ethereal ambience they had to offer.
At the time, there was plenty of uniqueness to go around. But what allowed the Cocteau’s to stand apart was Liz’s stunningly angelic vocals, at once operatic, yet filled with an effervescent subtlety and softness. There was no voice quite like it. And the music … well, the music was a perfect complement, never overpowering, always layering a soft bed of warm guitar melody for Liz’s voice to float upon.
Curiously, without even knowing it, the Cocteau’s were inventing a new genre, one that today has become known as dream-pop.
Listening to “Heaven of Las Vegas” again, it’s almost like a palette cleanser, washing away all the negativity, and replacing it with pure beautiful emotion, something we don’t always get with music today. There’s an optimistic feeling of a past era, which somehow remains timeless all the same.
I realize there’s a lot of hype in this long-winded introduction for one song. But having grown up with this band, as well as interviewing them a few times (when I was still a journalist), I can’t help but want others to experience their uniquely exquisite brand of song. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
“Heaven or Las Vegas” from the 1990 album “Heaven or Las Vegas.”
Here’s the official 1990 music video…
And if you’re interested in hearing more Cocteau Twins, check out these excellent and somewhat comprehensive compilations of their back catalogue… I particularly like the early tracks “Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops” and “Loves Easy Tears.”
The 2006 compilation album “Lullabies to Violaine (Volume One).”
The 2007 compilation album “Lullabies to Violaine (Volume 2).”