I distinctly remember getting stick for being into this from the in-crowd at school, at the time when the Madchester baggy scene was at its height. But "Heaven or Las Vegas" was definitely the high point of the Cocteaus' career. After the dense, fuzzily produced "Blue Bell Knoll" they tidied up their arrangements and we're left with a refined showcase of everything they do best. Liz Fraser's vocal gymnastics were at the peak of their control and confidence, while virtuosic and wide ranging as ever. Even a few English words were now creeping into her strings of improvised syllables. Robin Guthrie's layers of guitar fuzz and jangle, and Simon Raymonde's resonant high bass, are more solidly arranged than ever before.
Admittedly Liz's voice and the glittering, ethereal arrangements are beautiful, but what many people forget about the Cocteau Twins is that they wrote some fantastic tunes. And this album has their best, starting with the solid, stately progressions of "Cherry Coloured Funk". "Iceblink Luck", the first single, was my introduction to the band, and was a perfect piece of sparkling indie pop for a winter evening. The title track has an anthemic grandeur with a soaring chorus refrain and blistering guitar solo. The second side is just as strong, including the mellow, refreshing "I Wear Your Ring", the chanting anthem "Fotzepolitic", and a haunting Parisian romance "Road, River and Rail". "Frou-Frou Foxes" is a worthy finish to the album - full of amazingly strong melodies, and has a great, almost prog-rock-like dynamic range.
As for the mentions of babies here and there, well, Liz and Robin had just had a baby.
November 20, 2003