The Genius of… ‘Heaven or Las Vegas’ by Cocteau Twins
- By Gary Walker
- 30 Dec 2020
Cocteau Twins’ sixth album was a work of genius helmed by their influential guitarist and producer Robin Guthrie. Despite the album’s troubled gestation, it soars higher than anything else in the band’s catalogue.
To dare is to do
Its title may have implied a final roll of the dice for one of the great 4AD bands and godfathers of dream-pop, but despite the emotional strain that shrouded its gestation Heaven Or Las Vegas is the definitive Cocteau Twins album.
Its heavily effected guitars, electronic drums and the rare fragility of Elizabeth Fraser’s trilled lullabies coalesced into a celestial whole at the dawn of the 1990s. No one sounds quite like the Cocteau Twins, and this is their most complete, lucid statement. What’s most remarkable is they were making it all up as they went along. As bassist Simon Raymonde recalled, “In all our 14 years of making music together, we never demoed or ‘wrote’ songs in a conventional way.”
The ethereal splendour of Heaven Or Las Vegas disguises the dark cloud under which it was crafted, the sessions at the band’s September Sound studio, once owned by Pete Townshend, overshadowed by the transience of death, birth and heartbreak. “It was trying to mask all the other shit that was going on that we didn’t want to stop and think about for too long,” says Raymonde, whose father the composer and arranger Ivor Raymonde died while they were making the record. Furthermore, Fraser and guitarist/producer Robin Guthrie welcomed their first child, Lucy Belle, into the world just as their relationship began to falter under the weight of Guthrie’s struggles with addiction. It’s all chronicled on an album of transcendent beauty, with a guitarist at the peak of his powers its central figure.
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