Another band not quite as well known as Aztec Camera, are the Cocteau Twins.
The Cocteau Twins are a gothic/dreampop three piece from the darkest recesses of Scotland. Grangemouth, near Falkirk to be precise.
Formed by schoolfriends Robin Guthrie and Will Heggie in 1981, they later recruited vocalist Elizabeth Fraser who they found warbling at a scabby rock night at an even scabbier hotel in their hometown.
Guthrie and Fraser soon became long-term partners, remaining the nucleus of the band throughout the years. In 1983, Heggie decided to call it quits after a diastrous European tour which was fraught with constant arguments between Robin and Liz.
Later that year ex-Drowning Craze member Simon Raymonde stepped-in to take over Heggie’s role on bass.
Through the mid to late 80’s (and on in to the early ninties) the band went on a formidable creative streak releasing 4 flawless records in a row (Treasure, Victorialand (which was written without the services of Raymonde who was helping with the new This Mortal Coil release), Blue Bell Knoll and Heaven or Las Vegas. All four records charted in the UK Top 40 albums.
The Cocteau’s eventually disbanded in 1996 after releasing a further two albums which were great in their own right but did not live up to the quality of their early work. Since then Robin and Simon have set up the record label Bella Union which plays host to some exciting new bands including The Dears and Explosions in the Sky.
Liz has kept a much lower profile, emerging in 1998 to colloberate on Massive Attack’s Mezzanine.
What are they most famous for?
Much to the groups disgust, they are most famous for covering Tim Buckley’s ‘Song to a Siren’ for their record label 4AD’s project ‘This Mortal Coil’. The record gained significant commerical airplay at a time when they were struggling to shift even a couple of thousand records.
Elizabeth Fraser’s lyrics or (lack of them) have been the focus of much public scrutiny. The vast majority of the bands earliest work contains lyrics which were deemed to be either completely nonsensical or in another language. It took almost a decade for Liz to record her first decipherable words on the ‘Four Calendar Cafe’ LP.
In October 2004 it was announced that the band would be reforming for the Coachella Festival in California, with rumours circulating about a new release and a possible UK tour. Any hopes of this happening came crashing to the ground in early 2005 when Liz Fraser announced that she wanted to have no part in the reunion.
Why aren’t they famous?
The Cocteaus seemed unwilling to take advantage of any opportunities which would have led to stardom. This was epitomised by their refusal to perform their hit single ‘Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops’ on Top of the Pops in April 1984.
The group seemed to dodge publicity as if it were a contagious disease. This is never more evident in their interviews.
Where to start
A good starting place for people new to the Cocteau Twins work would either be ‘Treasure’ or the ‘Heaven and Las Vegas’ album. Both LP’s are masterpieces and are readily accessible by anyone with a love for insane sonic assaults!
It is important to note that much of the band’s best material was released on EP’s which are by now hard to track down. ‘Stars and Topsoil’ contains most of these rare gems along with a selection of the groups best album tracks.