Nightman Listens To – Cocteau Twins – Heaven or Las Vegas! (Top 1000 Albums Series)

When I started writing this series of Listens To! posts, my idea was to:

A: Listen to the tonnes of albums I have acquired over the years that I hadn’t bothered to actually listen to yet and give my thoughts as I listened for the first time.

B: Catch up on those artists that I was aware of/liked certain songs by, but whose albums I had never listened to in their entirety.

C: Potentially get some new favourites based off what I heard or by recommendations from my billions of readers.

D: Because there are a tonne of albums which always appear on best of lists which I have never heard. As a musician, music fan, and human with working ears, I feel that I should give these a go.

To get some focus, I decided to go to 2000 Edition of ‘Colin Larkin’s All Time Top 1000 Albums’ because it looks fairly comprehensive (and there are a few extra sections listing top 100 albums by genre which cover selections left out of the main 1000 which I will also try to cover).

Greetings, Glancers! It’s time once again to marvel at my ignorance and give me a pat on the back for trying, as I listen with virgin ears to an album that has thus far passed me by on my listening travels. Today’s should be interesting as I don’t really know anything about the band, I haven’t heard of the album, and I’m not even sure what the genre of music is. I apologise in advance to any fans who may be reading this, but you never know, maybe you’re about to be joined by a new recruit. Alls I gots to do is hit ‘play’.

What Do I Know About The Cocteau Twins: I’ve heard the name, I believe they are Scottish, but I don’t know if there actually are twins in the band (I assume not).

What Do I Know About Heaven or Las Vegas: Absolutely nada.

Cherry-Coloured Funk: Hold on, postman just came to my door….Ok, he’s gone. Soft, My Vitriol guitar sound. Oh Lord, I hope it doesn’t become like My Bloody Valentine. Hmm, lady vocals, nice. Is this all female-fronted? If so, I think it’ll be the first female fronted album we’ve covered so far on Larkin’s list. Dreamy pace. High pitch, can’t make out the lyrics, something about tigers and colours. Soft and sort of catchy, I may get into it after more listens, nothing overly memorable, but good start. Sudden end.

Pitch The Baby: Warble. More fairground effects on the guitars, wavey and watery. More lady vocals, still can’t quite make them out. A sultry song for drunken dancing or stoned ceiling stares. Again, it’s sort of catchy in its repetition, and waves of sound bouncing around have their charm, but no obvious melody that would stick with me.

Ice-blink Luck: 80s pop sound. Uppy downy vocals. Defo an MBV vibe, but without all the crap. Interesting melodies, just wish the vocals were more prominent in the mix, too much swirling getting in the way. Bass has similar tone to New Order. Lots of words. Cherry cola. Drum interlude. A traditionally commercial structure buried under wall of sound. That was nice.

Fifty-fifty Clown: Throb and drum. More drums. Dark underwater. I see much of what would influence How To Measure A Planet by The Gathering here, which is one of my favourite albums – that period they were influenced by Slowdive, Dead Can Dance etc, and this sounds pretty similar. I guess people will call this ethereal, and it is. I appreciate the vocals and the melodies, but still waiting for something to really grab a hold of me.

Heaven Or Las Vegas: Some sort of cascading riff. Title track. More vocals I can’t understand. Lots more swirling and plenty of sound trapping out space. I imagine there are some disasters with people not knowing the lyrics and trying to sing along or guess. Again it is catchy, but more in an airy way than an obvious way, which means it will likely take me a few listens to remember anything in particular.

I Wear Your Ring: Slight Eastern sound. Something looming on the sun-kissed horizon. Ha ha, sunrise sunset lyrics. Now, this is more like it, wonderful stuff. Can slip away and never want to come back. Slight trumpet or some such. Gone. Slight no clue what is being said. Some of vocals sound a little off, especially on the lower vibrato, like one of those wheels you used to get on the side of a keyboard to bend notes up and down.

Fotzepolitic: Surge. My dreams are something. A lot of these songs have similar melodies in the vocals – build up to very high point then immediately drop to low note. Still, it’s nice enough. La la las. More jangling guitars. All very pleasant. Refrain. Repeat. See and saw and me back to ya? Oh Lord, a guitar solo of some description. Fade.

Wolf in The Breast: Riff sounds like something else I know. Can’t place it. This is all a refreshing change from other stuff I’ve been listening to recently, and more importantly, from the drivel in today’s charts. Soothing. Again dreamy melodies that flutter away before they take hold. It’s very easy to get caught up in this and forget to write, but then I don’t really have much to say about it.

Road, River And Rail: Jangling guitars. A bit more ominous and atmosphere. Lets try the lyrics…. Eddie fell away, and his choices can’t be toes, making clothes on the hill where I sent him. Road river rail, something something century. Can’t keep up. Floating through ancient flaps of light.. lay on a crapper of bless. Seeing an apple and pants…. from out of the barnyard. Seventeen. I don’t know. Am I close with any of this? Mother’s daughter. To a tissue falling? This is nice as well.

Frou-Frou Foxes In Midsummer Fires: Dark and atmospheric opening again. Funeral march, nice. Howling guitars. Swirly swirls. Vocals more prominent now. Building to something. No. Again. Now. Explosion of sound and Spac words. Scatman. Sounds like Family Ness theme tune. Rounder. Rounder. Back to start. Good stuff. If I listen to this again I imagine it will have more of an impact.

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 218/1000

What I Learned: That Cocteau Twins have a lady singer, that they make ethereal pop that sounds like anything from mid 80s to late 90s. That the lyrics are either indecipherable or nonsense or both. That they, at least on this album, have a very distinct sound and never veer away from it. That it’s all very nice, soothing, and repetitive in a good way.

Does It Deserves Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: It’s another strange one because I can’t imagine this would have sold bucketloads as it doesn’t strike me as particularly commercial, unless it was released in one of the indie peak periods. I don’t recall hearing any of the songs before so I don’t think any of the singles were hits, and I don’t remember hearing any of it on TV shows or movies, so I don’t know how influential it is, or was. There are a few bands who have a similar sound, so maybe these guys were first, or its one of the best examples. Musically it is strong, though I don’t usually go for the wall of sound when it so clearly crushes everything else. I’d definitely listen to it again, and I imagine that it is indeed something I could easily get hooked on. So in short, upon first listen, for me it’s a MAYBE.

Did I get this right, or have I missed the point? What are your memories of this album – feel free to share some stories, and recommend some other stuff by the band. Have you seen them live? What’s your favourite song by them, or on this album? Let us know in the comments!

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