“English as a Second Language: A Salute to the Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser”
- By Tim Anderson
- The Nervous Breakdown
- 27-Jan 2012
The late eighties were a great time to be a fanboy of weirdo new wave ladysingers from outer space (mainly Britain).
It seemed like every time you turned on your new favorite show, “120 Minutes,” some wackadoodle dame dripping with otherworldly moxie was popping up sporting a leotard or a tutu or a completely bald head, leaving your mouth gaping in wonder at the sheer brilliance of it all. You had your helium-voiced ethereal fantasist (Kate Bush), your ferocious and feline Weimar Republic throwback/riding crop enthusiast (Siouxsie Sioux), your tiny elfin powder keg (Björk of the Sugarcubes), your scary trannie android (Annie Lennox of Eurythmics), and your testy and tempestuous ingénue (Sinead O’Connor). All of these ladies had allure to burn and the musical chops to back it all up.
But there was one lady, from a very distant star (Grangemouth, Scotland), who truly stood head and shoulders above the rest in what she brought to the table. Not only was Elizabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins an alabaster-skinned ice princess with a mystifying hairstyle—she also had one of the most gorgeous voices to which pop music had ever born witness. With a staggering range that took it from the gutter to the stars in effortless swoops, and an easy way with melody and multi-tracked harmonies, Fraser’s voice was downright operatic in the sense that, unlike all of her peers, she sounded as if she could actually acquit herself quite nicely in an actual opera. (Of course, it would be one performed by an orchestra of hologram robots and staged on the distant planet of Mongo, but it would still be an opera.)
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