“The Cocteau Twins and Me”
- By Dave Simpson
- The Guardian
- 26-Nov 2009
For 18 years, she was the ‘voice of God’ in the Cocteau Twins. Now Elizabeth Fraser finds it too difficult even to think about her old bandmates
The Cocteau Twins had been apart for seven years, the mystique they had attained during their lifetime gradually growing and their influence spreading, when the announcement came that they were to reform. The world was told they would be headlining the 2005 Coachella festival in California, and would follow that with a major tour. According to bassist Simon Raymonde, the band stood to benefit to the tune of £1.5m each for getting back together – enough to guarantee them financial security, enough to secure the future of Raymonde’s Bella Union label.
There was just one problem. Within weeks of the announcement, the group’s singer, Elizabeth Fraser, announced she wouldn’t take part.
“I don’t remember it being that much money and in any case that’s not the reason [for reforming],” she says today, in her first interview since the band split in 1998. “But people get so fucking carried away. Even though something’s staring you in the face, people just cannot see it. I knew it wouldn’t happen and it didn’t take long to want out.”
Fraser’s decision to pull out of the reformation was made for the same reasons that contribute to the band’s split in the first place: she could no longer face working with the group’s guitarist, Robin Guthrie – her lover until 1993, and the father of her first child. But while they were together, the Cocteau Twins established themselves as one of the three main pillars of British alternative music, alongside New Order and the Smiths. Guthrie provided shimmering swathes of effects-laden guitar – surely the inspirtation for what then Radio 1 DJ Steve Wright’s spoof rock critic character called “sonic cathedrals of sound” – while real critics swooned over Fraser’s otherworldly and often incomprehensible vocals, one describing her singing – to her embarrassment – as “the voice of God.” Madonna loved them, Prince wanted to sign them and Scritti Politti’s Green Gartside said the vocally gymnastic Fraser was his third favourite melodicist of all time (behind Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson). You still hear their influence in any band striving to sound ethereal and otherworldly. Now her voice is to be heard again, as she releases her first solo single, Moses.
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