Cocteau Twins
Heaven or Las Vegas


4.0
excellent

Review

by Bartender EMERITUS
January 16th, 2005 | 53 replies


Release Date: 1990 | Tracklist


The Cocteau Twins are, in many ways, something of an unfortunate band to review. On the one hand, their style is something fairly different (more or less unique) and has the potential to provide for some exotic description, but on the other, there seem to be a limited number of phrases that a reviewer can use in such description. Once you've run through the "shimmering basslines", "glacial melodies" and "ethereal soundscapes" which "first freeze the mind and then slowly release it to hitherto unexperienced horizons of beauty"*, you've got a review which reads just like every other glacial, shimmering, ethereal Cocteau Twins review out there.

Inevitably then, it seems to fall simply to discussing the various elements of the band. Luckily the Twins come up smiling again; they provide a few great points to make, mostly in reference to Liz Fraser. Simply, her voice is amazing. You may know her as the woman who sings on Massive Attack's Teardrop (incidentally one of the best songs ever written), and I'd imagine that chances are, if you've heard that song at least, you'll know what I mean. I've never been on the "other side" (that is, not loving her voice, if there even is such a side), so I don't know arguments against it. It's just..enchanting. Clear and fragile, with something of a rather difficult to describe "slant" to it, perhaps a result of her (Scottish) accent. It really is easily the biggest attraction to the Cocteau Twins; if you like her voice, you're more or less automatically suckered in to liking the band as a whole.

The only possible objection I can see (and it doesn't particularly bother me), is that it's not clear what she's saying. She writes the lyrics herself, and they don't appear in the booklet, so I imagine that what they actually are is known only to her, though fans are never short of ideas. Along with being one of the most beautiful I've heard, her singing voice is also one of the strangest, when it comes to pronunciation, articulation, and so on. e.g. "Sun" is easily mistaken for "soon". To go back to Teardrop as an example; the opening line appears to be "Love, love essoo vairb" ("Love, love is a verb"). Is it "feather sun, my braid" or "fearless on my breath"? Maybe "fear this song might break"? "Black powers for some" or "black flowers blossom"?

Still, this is not a problem for me, and neither should it be for you, when you're listening to one of the best voices in the world. If anything, I quite like the indeterminate nature of her voice. You can pick and choose what to say along with it

Moving away from Liz, the main thing I notice after her is the bass. The music always seems to me to be very bass-driven, but the bass is used in an odd way, difficult for me to describe without resorting to visual approximations; more a bass pool, than a bassline. "Shimmering" remains probably the best description for it, and it often mixes somewhat with the rest of the instrumentation to provide a big pulsing backdrop to Liz's vocals. In terms of songwriting, this album is really quite poppy; the majority of the songs are only a little over three minutes long, and the hook/chorus often comes in early on, and is repeated fairly often. It has a lifespan longer than the majority of pop, though, due mostly to the features mentioned previously, which constitute the "alt." bit. Several of the songs are rather high quality, too, especially when they drift from the simplistic structure in writing and experiment a bit (the longer tracks, basically).

3.9/5

Finally, a personal note before I finish; the Cocteau Twins music, at least on this album, always makes me think of the Northern Lights (the aurora borealis, not the book). So, here you are:

http://www.ci.delta-junction.ak.us/photo_pages/images/20000914_NORHTERNLIGHTS2.jpg
http://www.borealis2000.com/homepix/aurora.jpg

Recommended song;
As an introduction, either Cherry-Coloured Funk or Fifty-Fifty Clown are excellent. If you're feeling a bit more adventurous (or you don't want to start from the poppy extreme, for whatever reason), give Frou Frou Foxes in Midsummer Fires or the title track a try.

*a shiny new penny to anyone who can recognise this reference.



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user ratings (293)
Chart.
4.1
excellent
other reviews of this album
ANJ45 (5)
A masterpiece of dream pop, as well as an ethereal and emotional experience, Heaven or Las Vegas is ...

related reviews

Treasure

Head Over Heels

Comments:Add a Comment 
Tomahawk
January 1st 2005


124 Comments


I don't have this album, but I love the Cocteau Twins, and this was a great review. I'll have to check out this album.

If this is the only one of their albums you have, then I really recommend you get Treasure, it's awesome.

Iai
Emeritus
May 1st 2005


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I just got Treasure, and it's unreal. If this sounds anything like it, it comes highly recommended.

br3ad_man
Emeritus
May 10th 2005


2125 Comments


Cocteau Twins are so good. Nice review again Bartender.


Iai
Emeritus
June 18th 2005


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I want to find out what that reference is.

v0id
September 15th 2006


1 Comments


I have almost all their albums, and I like them all more or less, but `Tresure` is the best of all. Also I strongly recommend you to listen to joint project of the french composer Yann Tiersen and Liz Fraser.

VinylRecordFace
June 22nd 2009


1 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

Reference is from Douglas Adam's Life, The Universe and Everything!
Do I get a shiny new penny? ;-)
Whats funny is that I have used that line in one of my music reviews.
The hitchhiker books are full of amazing lines!
Good Review!

TheGreatD17
September 18th 2009


1141 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The first half of this album is amazing, the second half not as much, but it's still a very good album on the whole. It's a shame this guy's ridiculous 1/5 ruins the average rating.

Big Baby Jesus
September 27th 2010


549 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

I heard the first few songs off of this, and I was sure It'd be a 5. As of now, the second half isn't as awesome, but it's still a really great find.

Pitch The Baby is Funky, Sexy, and Dreamy. A really amazing song, and probably the only bass line I can learn by ear.

DoubtGin
December 26th 2010


6752 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

beautiful

psykonaut
August 12th 2011


3913 Comments


fuck me this album is gorgeous

WashboardSuds
March 21st 2012


5035 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

yum

Digging: Sachiko M, Toshimaru Nakamura & Otomo... - Good Morning Good Night

MaskAtTheMasquerade
April 6th 2012


2888 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

holy cow i've been missing out on a beautiful record. this is ridiculously good

WashboardSuds
April 6th 2012


5035 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

no kidding, Cherry Colored Funk has one of the sweetest vocal moments ever

MaskAtTheMasquerade
April 6th 2012


2888 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I completely agree. The album title track is just heartbreaking too. I really need to listen to Treasures

fulgrim
April 8th 2012


1542 Comments


best Cocteau Twins album, beautiful stuff.

Archelaos
April 11th 2012


241 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"Frou-Frou Foxes in Midsummer Fires" is such a good way to end this beautifully album.

Graveyard
May 2nd 2012


5800 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Fifty-Fifty Clown is easily the best thing on this

Digging: Prurient - Bermuda Drain

Graveyard
May 11th 2012


5800 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

but Head Over Heels will remain their greatest effort

Ire
August 26th 2012


41820 Comments


no






maybe

Ire
August 28th 2012


41820 Comments


only got victorialand and it's wonderful



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