|Bob Thompson Music|
Looking back this live Cocteau Twins concert, lovingly synched with the video by Cocteau Buff it these guys were the best thing going at the time. What other band cannot be covered, simulated, borrowed from, recreated in anything but tiny bits? How can you start a genre and end it at the same time? They did it. Looking back on it it is also not just the sound of the voice but how creative she is and how every syllable has a different "spin" on it. I think this concert from 1990 is probably the best example because it has songs from their three periods: beauty with ugly, beauty with tension, and beauty beauty, and "actual song" beauty beauty. These are my faves...
My Love Paramour: Perfect example to me of the dark and light coming together.
For that reason, she's up there with the true greats in my book like Edith Piaf and Ella Fitzgerald. (I am making myself cringe with the comparison.) The bedding Robin provided her was unbelievable pairing, sort of like Smiths, X, etc. It's too bland to call it a bedding, because he plays around with sound and dissonance so much and somehow she responds to it with great complexity and genius.
1990 Concert o' Cocteau
On this concert recording, she sounds better than the records. It seems like she matured somewhat in her artistry. It's not as careful or exact. And imagine such a shy person getting up there and singing like that! Not easy but she looks so at home with herself here. I used to play CT to my father and the only song he said play it again to was "Pink Orange Red" which to me is the stripped down essence of what they do. Very simple three chords then off to the races with Elizabeth. (She never seemed like a Liz to me.)
I did see them on this tour and what I didn't get from the records was her eccentricity. I guess this is why she was able to create a world of her own.
Some of the mid-period cocteau is my favorite. Although a musician friend of mine would say that something is "fucked up" about it. The whole doesn't quite work. I am loathe to try to explain it; but it is partially that these are not songs in the conventional sense, but structures That's an observation; for me, the mid-period stuff, pre-Blue Bell Knoll and post-Garlands, is my favorite.
Liz Fraser's "Lyrics"
I don't like people's attempts to decipher what Liz is singing. It's Glossolalia, primarily. A New York Times review of the 1990 concert says that if the Cocteau Twins had explicit lyrics, it would sound kind of crappy. I am one to agree. I do like that words somehow cut through every once and a while -- to quote Howard Devoto -- are "jerky visions of the Dream." The music that seems beyond words has lyrics that go beyond words. Even writing about CT feels dumb. One has to slap down words from various reviews of their music: transcendent, ethereal stately. I'll shove some cool YouTube comments in here that are more impressions than descriptions: seeing fairies (Yuk, that is too Tori Amos!) and so on. To try to write about Cocteau Twins is to cringe at oneself.
I like the Liz's phrase "Ooze out and away, onehow" which is the name of a song and as a YouTube comment points out, a line from My Love Paramour. The lack of lyrics also let the lyrics "change" for me and mean something different as life stages wax and wane.
I've pulled together some of the YouTube comments that give some attempt to describe what is going on...
"If it is true, that before you die your mind plays whole of your life, I will listen to this song before I go."
"The song you hear when you're dead."
"If CT isn't playing when you die you are in the wrong place!"
Robin Guthrie never met a Major 7th chord he didn't like, or triplets (6/8). He sees himself as more of a tinkerer or sound designer than an actual player, from what I gather. But the stacking of complex melodic lines, and playing around with dissonance without creating a sunny-side-up egg that ruptures, is impressive. If you look at Wale Tales's double lines, as amazingly recreated by Micha Newman...
Coming Down to Earth
Heaven or Las Vegas to me is their "last song" creatively (although there was one more album to follow) because the title somehow makes some sense and links the ethereal and the red-hot swamp that is Vegas. All flights must end, but hopefully, one can take flight again.
Spenser Thompson shares anecdotes, music, and videos from Bob Thompson's music career plus thoughts on artists from Duke to Devo.