1990, Music

Heaven or Las Vegas (1990) by Cocteau Twins

The Cocteau Twins, arguably the inventors of dream pop, have an inimitable sound. On their early records I find that sound a little too reminiscent of Siouxsie and the Banshees but, at this stage of their career, I find that comparison basically useless. Bands with such distinct sounds, who I don’t love enough to listen to everything they do, are always hard for me to evaluate. Sometimes it feels like there is so little difference in sound from record to record, unless you’re obsessive enough to detect it. But I don’t think that’s true here.

As many have pointed out, this record feels more accessible than their earlier records – Fraser is easier to understand at times, for one thing. And the drum machine feels a little amped up in comparison to previous albums. It doesn’t really make the record danceable or anything, but rhythm become more important, or more pronounced at least, does feel like another avenue in which listeners can connect with this ethereal band.

The songs are catchy as they always are. The sound of the record – from Fraser’s voice to the drum machine to the guitars – feels less ethereal and more earthly and makes this music resemble rock music a little more than it used it. It’s still very much dream pop, but it does feel like you could, like, see this band in concert and move your body to it or something. What I mean is that the songs have feel more conventional, even if they are not particularly.

When band’s turn towards the mainstream, it can go disastrously wrong. But the things that make the Cocteau Twins the Cocteau Twins are still very much present. It’s just that the record is “groovier” (for a lack of a better word) and now you can sometimes understand their singer. Neither of these things strike me as a major artistic compromise to sell records.

Though I still don’t know the band well enough, I suspect this is the record that is the best place to start with them.


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