HEY! Get updates to this and the CD and 7" blogs via Twitter: @VinylUnderbite

28 March 2011

Cocteau Twins - 'Heaven or Las Vegas' (4AD)

I don't know a lot about this band -- just this album, and I used to have a cassette of Blue Bell Knoll that I wish I still had, cause it was great! But this is a pretty masterful collection of songs, of this band doing what they do... strangely mutated vocals (actually singing English, just with weird phrasing), thick semi-ambient guitars that sound like synths, and a drum machine to push it all along. It's pure pop abstraction, made evident by how infectious these songs are even though I haven't listened to this album in probably a decade, I remember almost every song. Side one is just a feelgood suite of winners. 'Iceblink Luck' jumps out as particularly memorable - it's sentiments are so human despite an aesthetic that is alien. Inviting indeed, I still love the title track and the way it soars. The maxim "a pop hook can be genius without literal meaning'" is sure in effect here. Side two takes things down a notch, opening with the relatively somber (and somewhat world music-like) 'I wear your ring'. And as much as I enjoy listening to it (particularly this scratchy, beat-up old LP, which has enough surface noise to add another layer of strange on proceedings), I don't really know how to write about this music. I know this band has a massive cult following but I just casually like this one record. I'm almost afraid to write any interpretations here just in case I get angry comments from Cocteau diehards (see, I still delude myself into thinking that people actually read this blog). I know they're Scottish, but this feels pretty far away from the Close Lobsters record just under review here, despite being really rather contemporary of them. I can hear a Kate Bush influence in 'Road, river and rail' but maybe I'm just looking for something easy to say. There's evidence of the times - the bassline gets pretty plucky on 'Pitch the baby', and the overall sound has a very 80s aesthetic (though I think this is actually 1990). 'Frou-frou foxes in midsummer fires', the closing cut, is dark and brooding, and one that I didn't actually remember. When it kicks in, it's an epic liftup, and it's almost like scat singing, yet so serious. When you look up 4AD in the dictionary, this should be what you get. I guess this band influenced artists like Sigur Ros and maybe even the shitgaze stuff of more recent times. And all this from just outside of Falkirk too!

No comments:

Post a Comment