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

Review of Treasure

  • By Steve Sutherland
  • Melody Maker
  • 10-Nov 1984

Trust true brilliance to arrive by accident. With ‘Treasure’ echoing all around my head, it all seems so obvious. Only something this naïve could shake the shame from all categories we worry about.

Relax. ‘Treasure’ sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard and everything you’ve ever wished for.

Most people change; The Cocteau Twins blossom. The break from the hellish Gothic shackles of the awkward ‘Garlands’ to the heavenly scorpion cocktail jazz of ‘Head Over Heels’ was a metamorphosis beyond the imagining. But how were we to know that the chrysalis had only just cracked, that the colours we were devouring were just a dazzling secretion?

Without meaning to, without caring, ‘Treasure’ is what so many strive for—a new pop music. Anyone can listen to this and feel enriched. It’s stirring, sensual, stately, subtle. It’s bubblegum spiked with acid. It’s candy-coloured. It’s timeless.

Crack its sugary shell and you read the name right through. Pin its plump, squirming body to a board and examine its translucent wings and it’s an anatomical marvel. Simon Raymonde’s sturdy, haunting bass forms a vertebrae, the drum machine drops heartbeats like bombs and Robin Guthrie’s guitar congeals into a pale, perfect skin.

The creature thus far is grubbing in the dark, begging for sight. It’s the voice that leads it from sweet ambience to poignant emotion. Liz Fraser must be schizophrenic, she speaks in so many tongues. During ‘Lorelei’ she’s a panting orgasm, a celestial turn-on. As ‘Pandora’ she’s The Angel from Ipanema; as ‘Otterley’ she’s the spectral confessor; as ‘Amelia,’ the lady with the lamp.

It would be easy to point out that the Cocteau Twins use Liz’s voice as an instrument rather than a narrative, but that’s like reducing flight to the motion of muscles. Liz isn’t accomplished, she’s inspired.

It’s weird. The Cocteaus barely seem to exist off record. They work like receivers; something plays itself through them and reaches us untainted and pure. There are dimensions to ‘Treasure’ which strike me as spiritual—it invades the body, intoxicates the imagination and succours the soul. Surely this band is the voice of God. ▣

Review of <cite>Treasure</cite>
Sleeve for Treasure by 23 Envelope for 4AD, 1984.