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Cocteau Twins

Treasure (Reviewed by Bogie):

Cocteau Twins – Treasure, Released by 4AD, October 1984.
Ivo (3:53)
Lorelei (3:41)
Beatrix (3:11)
Persephone (4:24)
Pandora (for Cindy) (5:32)
Amelia (3:29)
Aloysius (3:25)
Cicely (3:27)
Otterley (4:14)
Donimo (6:12)

In the intro to Spinal Tap’s “Stonehenge”, they made this comment about the druids: “Nobody knows who they were, or what they were doing”. I don’t know who they were, but I think I know what they were doing. They were listening to Treasure by Cocteau Twins. The word “unique” doesn’t go quite far enough to describe the sound of the Cocteau Twins but it will have to do. They have never sounded more unique than on the record Treasure. There is sheer beauty in this release. Sometimes simple, sometimes complex, the music is never boring – from powerful guitar riffs and pounding drums (albeit programmed) to gentle synth and xylophone-sounding noises – and serves as the core of the song. Liz Frazer’s singing and lyrics can generate enough debate to complete a Ph.D. seminar but the beauty of her voice is not up for debate. Whether the lyrics are decipherable is not important as Fraser’s voice is intended to be another instrument much more than it is required to relate a tale.

Cocteau Twins (a name borrowed from an early Simple Minds song and presumably some reference to the famous French artist Jean Cocteau) was initially a trio from Grangemouth, Scotland; Liz Fraser (vocals), Robin Guthrie (guitar, production) and Will Heggie (bass). In late 1983 Englishman Simon Raymonde (bass and piano) joined Liz and Robin as a replacement for Heggie. Fraser, Guthrie and Raymonde kept their lineup intact until the band called it quits in 1997. Raymonde also continued contributing to the 4AD label’s incredible This Mortal Coil project after the first album (the only one to feature Liz Frazer’s vocals).

There is little value discussing the individual tracks here. Due to the vague lyrical content all of these songs are going to mean very different things to many people. Some remind me of Christmas with sounds of sleigh-bells. Some remind one more of latin chorals. Still, some highlights for me are:

Ivo – I suppose it must be some sort of ode to Ivo Watts-Russel the founder of the 4AD record label. It is not possible to determine if they are adulating or criticizing. Which is what makes this so much fun. Musically, this is a wonderful intro to the album with its gentle acoustic beginnings blossoming into a full and rousing sound.

Persephone – Provides the raunchiest of guitar sounds on this record. A great sound and yielding the occasional word decipherable in English.

Donimo – Long and with one of the most stirring choruses I’ve ever heard.

Although this is generally a gentle album it is advisable to crank up the volume. There is a richness and feel that can only be appreciated fully with a nice wall of sound. It is this richness that makes the record so wonderful, taking you off to places only you are cognizant of. It’ll be different for everybody.

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