When FirstFoot was younger and the ingestion of copious quantities of non-prescription drugs was routine, the Cocteau Twins were de rigueur. That the lyrics were completely impenetrable merely served to add another layer of incomprehension to the pharmaceutically generated ambience and increase the allure of the music produced by Grangemouth born Robin Guthrie and Liz Fraser.
The Cocteau's are one of the Internet's wonder bands. There are scores and scores of Web sites and discussion forums dealing in Cocteau esoterica . But the deeper one delves the more that one thing becomes apparent; that there is very little hard fact about the band beyond album release dates, tour dates and the other artefacts of life in the music business. As people, individuals, personalities, very little emerges. They were an intensely private band.
Still called the Cocteau Twins and still three of the buggers
Much of this privacy was not wilful obscurism. It was born out of the band's rejection of the trivia that the world of pop is obsessed with. Robin Guthrie in particular was scathing of the music business and repeatedly questioned its right to have any knowledge of the band beyond what was laid bare on their albums. Questions such as "what is your favourite shampoo?" went down like pork sandwiches at a Bar Mitzvah.
If the lyrics were inaccessible, then the music was anything but. Liz Fraser has one of music's most amazing voices. It soars and swoops and goes to places that few other singers think about never mind go. It's official too, the lyrics are bloody incomprehensible. They consist of made up words, words from foreign languages, there because Fraser likes the sound of them not because they have any other context. For a long time the only published lyric was "when mama was moth/I took bulb form" ……….Oh, really?
The front cover on NME in 1983. Photo by the great Anton Corjbin
The band emerged from post-punk in 1982 with their first album, Garlands. They were rapidly adopted by the godfather of British music, Mr John Peel who offered them a session and championed the band for many years. By the end of the following year, 1983, they were on the front cover on the hippest UK music paper, the NME. They had arrived, even if they didn't want anyone to know it.
The Cocteau's are no more now. After eight or nine albums, world-wide tours, incredible adulation from their loyal fan base, numerous EP's, consistent independent chart success and one UK Top 30 hit single (they refused to go on Top of the Pops), they split up in 1996. Robin Guthrie has his own band, Violet Indiana and Liz Fraser is working on solo projects.
They were a bright flame whose colours were unique. Beginners should start with "Stars and Topsoil", an excellent compilation of their best work between 1983 and 1990.