Heel to toe to hair and hoof and it's head over heels and it's all but an ark-lark...

“A British Trio Creates Haunting Melodies”

  • By Dave Rimmer
  • Detour
  • 1986

“Having these big pictures of us—it’s a bit embarrassing…” moans Robin Guthrie. “I don’t see the point of it, really. We’re not trying to get our name known, we’re just trying to get our music known.”

Such sentiments lie at the very heart of the Cocteau Twins, a British trio—Guthrie, Simon Raymonde, and Elizabeth Fraser—who have actually got their unusually gentle, ambient music known very well indeed considering their near total reluctance to play any part of the pop game.

They don’t like doing photos. They don’t like appearing on television. Their record sleeves boast no pictures of themselves and are more or less information-free. They do some interviews but regard them as little more than a necessary annoyance.

Even the good press that comes along by itself seems to irritate them. Elizabeth Fraser’s voice, particularly, seems to drive fans and critics alike into an almost religious fervor. One enthusiastic British reviewer was recently moved to describe their music as “The Voice of God.” How does Guthrie feel about that?

“A bit pissed off, really. If I read that about somebody else’s music, I just wouldn’t give it a chance.”

Not that they need worry. It’s five years since they emerged from Falkirk, Scotland, and began making records. After half a dozen LPs and even more 12-inch singles, they’ve become one of the most popular British independent groups. They’ve bought their own studio in West London and work there just about every day of the eleven months a year they’re not touring. They manage themselves and have paperwork to do. But when that’s out of the way, they do what they like doing best—making music.

That music has most recently included an LP, Victorialand, and the collaboration, The Moon and the Melodies, with minimalist pianist, Harold Budd. Hardly rock music, any of it. The kind of stuff, in fact, that sends reviewers scurrying for words like “shimmering” and “haunting” and “ethereal atmospheres.” Yet the Victorialand LP entered the British major charts at number ten.

“I wouldn’t call it successful,” says Robin Guthrie, who claims the three make only a “bare living” from what they do. “Success to me is getting my music across to people. And people still go out and buy a Dire Straits record rather than our records.”

An idea which obviously annoys the hell out of him. ▣