Beyond the 130 - Cocteau Twins

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Beyond the 130 - Cocteau Twins

Postby Deebank » 20 Feb 2015, 14:33

For such a shy and retiring band, the Cocteau Twins certainly had balls, or perhaps you could put their early attitude and confidence down to total naivety.

The nascent Cocs made two demo tapes. They sent one to Ivo Watts Russell at 4AD (home of their favourite band The Birthday Party) and the other to John Peel at the BBC. With decidedly Caledonian economy, one demo resulted in a record contract while the other delivered a session for the great DJ.

Formed at an indie club in a hotel in unglamorous Grangemouth, the Cocteau Twins (named after an early Simple Minds tune) coalesced when Guthrie and schoolmate and bassist Will Heggie recruited Liz Fraser as singer because they liked her dancing.

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With instant indie charts success for their first LP, the band would go on to be one of the titans of the ’80s and early ’90s scene. But their influence ultimately spread much further and deeper than the UK’s indie chart. The band have been cited by some of the biggest mainstream acts: Prince and Madonna are two that spring to mind; and they went on to inspire a whole genre (shoegazing) as well as a host of more left-field artistes like My Bloody Valentine and Sigur Ros.

While the first LP shared more common DNA with the proto-goth of The Banshees than Nick Cave’s Birthday Party, the band soon developed their own utterly unique sound, augmented by multi-instrumentalist Simon Raymonde from their third LP Treasure.



They defined the whole 4AD aesthetic with Liz’s ethereal and otherworldly voice taking centre stage among heavily affected guitars and lavishly sculpted soundscapes courtesy of Guthrie and Raymonde. The band rapidly outgrew its early sound and continued to develop throughout their career, going from the sparse and dark 808-driven early work to their more ecstatically poppy and lushly ambient later output.



What always surprised me though was how they rocked live. In their mid-career peak through to their later years they positively destroyed venues with a huge wall of sound: four guitarists, two drummers and keyboards with Liz’s voice soaring over it all made for a massive, ahem, sonic cathedral of a thing. They were a formidable towering presence, rather than the polite electric chamber music some may have been expecting.



So sad that Guthrie and Fraser’s failing relationship and the guitarist’s spiralling drug use brought the band to a halt just as they were recording their eighth LP. To this day the band has a huge and loyal global following and they have been offered millions to reform, but never enough to tempt the timid Ms Fraser out of her semi retirement in Bristol.

Her recent (ish) solo shows by all accounts challenged Kate Bush in the raw emotions stakes with grown men and women weeping at the beauty of it all. The YouTube evidence indicates that her voice and talent are still intact and in full effect. Her fans await the release of her much anticipated first solo LP with only scraps and a single song (Moses) to keep them engaged for the last 20 years.

Guthrie continues to pour out beautiful music in his own right and as part of various collaborations (with old ambient spar Harold Budd, John Foxx and Mark Gardener as well as with the band Violet Indiana which I wasn’t a big fan of). His soundtrack work, especially with film director Greg Araki is also worth your attention. His trademark sonic incandescence is undimmed.

Simon Raymonde has dabbled in music himself since the Cocteau Twins implosion but is best known these days for championing a wide range of new music through the label he and Guthrie set up to put out Cocteau’s releases in the mid-‘90s, Bella Union.

We will never see their like again, but they left a stunning legacy and while Fraser has yet to find the confidence to release her solo material, Guthrie is a prolific composer and producer. I commend them to you all.

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Re: Beyond the 130 - Cocteau Twins

Postby The Fish » 20 Feb 2015, 14:43

Whilst I grew up with The Beatles and The Stones and still love both, the two UK bands that have meant the most to me are The Smiths and The Cocteau Twins, more than the two mentioned and certainly a lot more than David Bowie.

I love that video for Carolyn's Fingers. Liz looks such a perfect picture of grace and serenity.
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Cocteau Twins

Postby Mike Boom » 20 Feb 2015, 17:10

he two UK bands that have meant the most to me are The Smiths and The Cocteau Twins


amen

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Re: Beyond the 130 - Cocteau Twins

Postby Huw » 20 Feb 2015, 17:45

The Fish wrote:The two UK bands that have meant the most to me are The Smiths and The Cocteau Twins


Paul,

I can only agree with this comment. Whilst these days I can mostly be found listening to Mogwai/This Will Destroy You/Explosions In The Sky/Sigur Ros/Godspeed and 'claptrap post-prog' stuff I constantly return to these two bands.

For me, from 'Treasure' onwards the Cocteau's didn't put a foot wrong. After all these years they still amaze me. Such WONDERFUL (and sometimes, heartbreaking) tunes.

Robin Guthrie's solo albums still deliver the goods, albeit without the beautiful vocals of Elizabeth.

A true gem of a band.

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Last edited by Huw on 21 Feb 2015, 08:50, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Beyond the 130 - Cocteau Twins

Postby Jeemo » 20 Feb 2015, 17:53

Just checked....sonic cathedrals....check....well done.
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Cocteau Twins

Postby Deebank » 20 Feb 2015, 18:14

Jeemo wrote:Just checked....sonic cathedrals....check....well done.


:)

Had to be done.
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Cocteau Twins

Postby Minnie the Minx » 21 Feb 2015, 02:38

Thanks Deebank. I would have been next in line to do this if you hadn't got here first. Much as so many artists have had a huge impact on my life, the Cocteaus are up there in my top three without a doubt.
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Cocteau Twins

Postby never/ever » 21 Feb 2015, 08:55

Yes, same with me. Ever since a writer at the school paper borrowed me his copy of Garlands back in 1982 I was hooked. Their concerts were quite extraordinary- I was fortunate to have a couple of real good ones (the Love's Easy Tears-tour in Tivoli, Utrecht being the best!) with Liz being in top form.

I will say though as much as I love the sound that Robin Guthrie gets out of his guitar I wish he put a bit more bite into his solo-work sometimes. At times it sounds a bit too sweet for me.
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Cocteau Twins

Postby Huw » 21 Feb 2015, 09:01

never/ever wrote:
I will say though as much as I love the sound that Robin Guthrie gets out of his guitar I wish he put a bit more bite into his solo-work sometimes. At times it sounds a bit too sweet for me.


But everyone should have a bit of sweetness in their life Maarts.

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Re: Beyond the 130 - Cocteau Twins

Postby never/ever » 21 Feb 2015, 09:12

Huw wrote:
never/ever wrote:
I will say though as much as I love the sound that Robin Guthrie gets out of his guitar I wish he put a bit more bite into his solo-work sometimes. At times it sounds a bit too sweet for me.


But everyone should have a bit of sweetness in their life Maarts.

X


There's sweetness and there's an abundance of sweetness...

I could do with a Rococo once in a while....
Ever notice that anyone going slower than you is an idiot, but anyone going faster is a maniac?."

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Re: Beyond the 130 - Cocteau Twins

Postby Huw » 21 Feb 2015, 10:25

never/ever wrote:
Huw wrote:
never/ever wrote:
I will say though as much as I love the sound that Robin Guthrie gets out of his guitar I wish he put a bit more bite into his solo-work sometimes. At times it sounds a bit too sweet for me.


But everyone should have a bit of sweetness in their life Maarts.

X


There's sweetness and there's an abundance of sweetness...

I could do with a Rococo once in a while....


To be honest, I find RG's solo albums to be 'bitter sweet' (if that makes sense).

I love nothing more than getting home to my penthouse after a hard week on the trading floor and open a bottle of fine wine, strike up a cigar and listen to 'Continental'.

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Re: Beyond the 130 - Cocteau Twins

Postby Deebank » 23 Feb 2015, 08:52

Huw wrote:
To be honest, I find RG's solo albums to be 'bitter sweet' (if that makes sense).

I love nothing more than getting home to my penthouse after a hard week on the trading floor and open a bottle of fine wine, strike up a cigar and listen to 'Continental'.


A lot go Guthrie's music is very emotional I think, which is a neat trick to pull off with instrumental music.

This for instance:

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Re: Beyond the 130 - Cocteau Twins

Postby never/ever » 23 Feb 2015, 09:31

Love the guitar tone- like for instance at the beginning and end of this neat collaboration with Opal-art director Russell Mills:

Ever notice that anyone going slower than you is an idiot, but anyone going faster is a maniac?."

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Re: Beyond the 130 - Cocteau Twins

Postby Rayge » 15 Jan 2018, 18:58

bump
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Cocteau Twins

Postby Deebank » 16 Jan 2018, 15:06

never/ever wrote:Yes, same with me. Ever since a writer at the school paper borrowed me his copy of Garlands back in 1982 I was hooked. Their concerts were quite extraordinary- I was fortunate to have a couple of real good ones (the Love's Easy Tears-tour in Tivoli, Utrecht being the best!) with Liz being in top form.

I will say though as much as I love the sound that Robin Guthrie gets out of his guitar I wish he put a bit more bite into his solo-work sometimes. At times it sounds a bit too sweet for me.


Just re-reading this I was reminded of when I saw RG in Brighton (playing at the indy cinema The Duke Of Yorks with his abstract films on the big screen). While I was completely entranced and delighted I couldn't help getting the feeling that he could so easily cross over and become a kind of indie Hank Marvin - and I'm not talking about the '50s guitar innovator, I'm thinking of the '80s purveyor of cheesy twang-based covers of the standards..
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Cocteau Twins

Postby pcqgod » 16 Jan 2018, 17:46

Probably should hear more from this band. I've had 'Treasure' for years.
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Cocteau Twins

Postby nathan » 16 Jan 2018, 19:05

This is one of the best things I have ever heard by anyone. I just adore it. A truly special band.


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Re: Beyond the 130 - Cocteau Twins

Postby slightbreeze » 17 Jan 2018, 00:05

A truly unique band. A rare thing for a group of musicians to sound like nobody else.

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Re: Beyond the 130 - Cocteau Twins

Postby Diamond Dog » 17 Jan 2018, 08:49

This upcoming book from Unbound may be of interest :

https://unbound.com/books/ethereal-punk ... ins-story/
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