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31 Years of 'Heaven or Las Vegas'

September 17, 2021

Most CT fans agree (and frankly, there ain’t many) that Heaven or Las Vegas is their definitive production: ephemeral and sublime, cocky song titles and discernable vocals, sweet sounds and fragments of bitter lyrics, it is a very Twins album in spirit. Garlands (1982), their debut, was too much on the punk and goth style, a desperate searching phase for their identity which was fulfilled by Treasure (1984), a commendable opus in itself. But it is Heaven or Las Vegas or a song therein, that the CT are most remembered for.

Heaven or Las Vegas, Cocteau Twins, 1990

Heaven or Las Vegas, Cocteau Twins, 1990

Like each of their album, HOLV has a balanced mix of slow and swift music. “Pitch the Baby” is a fast moving song with very understandable lyrics sung by Liz. In fact, many songs on HOLV such as “Iceblink Luck”, chorus of “Fotzepolitic” and of course, “Heaven or Las Vegas” can be understood in the sense that certain phrases and fragments of words can be deciphered which is a lot to ask for considering the band’s previous output.

The last track, “Frou-frou Foxes in Midsummer Fires”, aside from being a signature CT track, has one of the most curious and bizarre song title I have come across in recent memory. Leave it to the Cocteaus for enigmatic and funny song titles; “High Monkey Monk”, “Sugar Hiccup”, “The Spangle Maker”, “The Itchy Glowbo Blow”, “Ella Megalast Blurs Forever” and some that conjure happy, ethereal images like “A Kissed out Red Float Boat”, “Spooning Good Singing Gum”. Most of these quirky titles belong to HOLV’s predecessor, “Blue Bell Knoll” of 1988.

It is quite a task to decipher the meaning of the lyrics. Most of what Liz wrote was just random words and phrases that “sounded” right (which she further distorted as she sang). But that is not to say, all CT songs are gibberish. There are strong undertones of gender disparity, struggles of bad marriage, adultery, motherhood, feminity in much of her songs. “Summerhead” (“Are you the right man for me? Are you my friend?”) is a strong woman vocalizing her doubts, “Pitch the Baby” and “For Phoebe Still a Baby” (BBK) talks of motherhood, “I Wear Your Ring” certainly highlights the hopes and desolation of a newly wed. There are novel experiments too such as “Melonella” (Echoes in a Shallow Bay) which is literally a list of various species of butterflies sung as a song.

First song, favorite album and such things

I remember my very first CT song was “Fotzepolitic” (Ok, it was “Perly Dewdrops-drop” technically but shhh…) and I still relive that moment everytime I listen to the song. The shimmering guitars, rhythm, the unusual melody and Liz’s angelic vocals almost made it an auditory painting — not to be seen, but listened. I remember going like, “What on earth is this?!” because it was so different from the rock that I had expected.

My dreams are alone,
They’re sick and must be dross.
They’re young girls dreams…
~verse 1, Fotzepolitic

and then the refrain which she loops over and over again in the outro,

See and saw bounce me back to you.

To say HOLV is my favorite CT album is not a outrageous thing to say but it is certainly not accurate. I love HOLV (I even have their CDs bought with the first money I earned!). I also love Treasure and some of BBK, Milk and Kises, Four Calendar which is nothing to say of their large and equally magnificent EP produce (Check out “The Spangle Maker” or “Domino”).

Today HOLV turns 31 which is almost twice my age! I abhor that I was born in the 21st century which is just war, diseases, repulsive music and capitalism. It is my most sincere (and perhaps most daft) wish to be reborn in 80s Britain – to be surrounded by all these punk, rock, progressive artists. Ah.

Further reading

  1. This post, by no means, does justice to the songs on HOLV. For a much detailed and engrossing experience, check out Eric Roosendaal’s incredible little CT subsite. He has apparently reviewed every single CT song, maintained a meticulous discography (even rare ones!) and designed many CT quizzes. It’s a trivia haven for 80s rock enthusiasts.

  2. The author wrote his experience of listening to the CT here which is also his first blog post! The reader is warned of suboptimal sentence construction, grammatical errors, incorrect factual information owing mainly due to lack of maintainence on older posts.

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Basil | @itbwtsh

Tech, Science, Design, Economics, Finance, and Books.
Basil blogs about complex topics in simple words.
This blog is his passion project.