Heaven or Las Vegas

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Heaven or Las Vegas
Cocteau Twins—Heaven or Las Vegas.jpg
Studio album by Cocteau Twins
Released 17 September 1990
Studio September Sound, Twickenham, England
Genre Dream pop
Length 37:42
Label 4AD
Producer Cocteau Twins
Cocteau Twins chronology
Blue Bell Knoll
Heaven or Las Vegas
Four-Calendar Café

Heaven or Las Vegas is the sixth album by Scottish band Cocteau Twins, their last for the music label 4AD. In terms of chart positions, it was the most successful Cocteau Twins album, reaching No. 7 in the UK.

Despite 4AD president Ivo Watts-Russell proclaiming it one of the best-ever releases on his label, he released the group from their contract at the end of 1990 because his relationship with the band had soured.


The album is noteworthy for the musical evolution that the band displayed at the time. The lyrics of vocalist Elizabeth Fraser were more intelligible; many concerned her newborn daughter Lucy Belle. "Suddenly I had confidence which I'd never ever had in my life," Fraser said, "which I consequently lost after I had the baby, because it's such a frightening experience you lose it again and you have to start over again. But it does change you."[1]

Guitarist Robin Guthrie was experiencing problems with drug addiction. As a result of his decreased time in the studio, bassist Simon Raymonde's playing was more in the forefront.

"We've had it in the back of our mind that we wanted to play live again," said Guthrie at the time of the album's release, "so we thought we'd make some of the pieces more like songs we could actually play live… We like it better than all our last records. That's why we continue to make more – because if we made the perfect record we'd sit back and say, 'We can't do any better than that.' We think all our other ones are fucking crap. I'm slightly proud of a couple of tracks on a couple of them, but essentially I'm really embarrassed about what we've done in the past…"[1]


Heaven or Las Vegas was released in 1990 by 4AD in the UK, and 4AD/Capitol Records in the US. 4AD later reacquired American distribution rights for much of its back catalog, resulting in a 2003 reissue solely on 4AD, which was remastered by Guthrie.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[2]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 4/5 stars[3]
Entertainment Weekly B–[4]
Los Angeles Times 2.5/5 stars[5]
Pitchfork Media 10/10[6]
Q 4/5 stars[7]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 4/5 stars[8]
Select 4/5 stars[9]
Sputnikmusic 4.0/5[10]

The album has received positive critical acclaim. "Heaven Or Las Vegas is their finest hour yet," enthused Martin Aston in Q. "Ten exquisite moments that make Kate Bush – their only possible comparison – sound as airborne as Motörhead."[7] The album subsequently featured in the magazine's 'best of the year' roundup: "The Cocteaus continue on their inimitable course, blissfully regardless of what's going on in the world outside their surreal reality."[11]

"You may be able to dig out some of the words," wrote Andrew Perry in Select, "you may even get to hear some of the songs live, but Heaven Or Las Vegas is Cocteau Twins in their usual, spectacular and enigmatic context."[9] "In times when every other pop group is dragging on board whatever chemicals, '60s techniques and hypno-rhythms they can grab in order to achieve the desirable blissed-out condition," said Roger Morton in Vox, "it's a good joke that the Cocteaus can get there with such apparent effortlessness."'[12]

It was listed as the 90th best album of the 1990s by Pitchfork Media, who complimented Fraser's more direct vocals and the album's complex songwriting.[13] The album was also included in the 2008 edition of 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die,[14] and in The Guardian's online edition of a similar list.[15] It was considered the band's strongest work since Treasure by AllMusic reviewer Ned Raggett, who described it as "simply fantastic" and successful in creating "more accessibility".[2]

Heaven or Las Vegas was named by NME as the 28th best album of 1990.[16] Retrospectively, The Observer listed the album as the 97th greatest British album ever made.[17]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Cocteau Twins.

  1. "Cherry-Coloured Funk" – 3:12
  2. "Pitch the Baby" – 3:14
  3. "Iceblink Luck" – 3:18
  4. "Fifty-Fifty Clown" – 3:10
  5. "Heaven or Las Vegas" – 4:58
  6. "I Wear Your Ring" – 3:29
  7. "Fotzepolitic" – 3:30
  8. "Wolf in the Breast" – 3:31
  9. "Road, River and Rail" – 3:21
  10. "Frou-Frou Foxes in Midsummer Fires" – 5:38


  • Elizabeth Fraser - vocals
  • Robin Guthrie - guitar
  • Simon Raymonde - bass guitar
  • Andy Rumball - photography
  • Paul West - sleeve design


  1. ^ a b Select, October 1990
  2. ^ a b Raggett, Ned. "Heaven or Las Vegas – Cocteau Twins". AllMusic. Retrieved 22 October 2011. 
  3. ^ Larkin, Colin (2007). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-1-84609-856-7. 
  4. ^ Sandow, Greg (21 September 1990). "Heaven or Las Vegas". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 29 September 2015. 
  5. ^ "Pop Music Special: Fall's Big Albums, From AC / DC to Z.Z. Top". Los Angeles Times. 14 October 1990. Retrieved 14 November 2015. 
  6. ^ Deusner, Stephen (16 July 2014). "Cocteau Twins: Blue Bell Knoll/Heaven or Las Vegas". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 16 July 2014. 
  7. ^ a b "Heaven or Las Vegas". Q (49). October 1990. 
  8. ^ Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian, eds. (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Simon & Schuster. p. 174. ISBN 978-0-7432-0169-8. 
  9. ^ a b Perry, Andrew (October 1990). "Viva Las Vegas". Select (4): 95. 
  10. ^ Bartender (16 January 2005). "Cocteau Twins – Heaven or Las Vegas". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved 28 January 2013. 
  11. ^ Q, January 1991
  12. ^ Vox, October 1990
  13. ^ LeMay, Matt (November 17, 2003). "Top 100 Albums of the 1990s: 090: Cocteau Twins Heaven or Las Vegas". pitchfork.com. Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 22 October 2011. 
  14. ^ "1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die". rocklistmusic.co.uk. 
  15. ^ "1000 Albums to Hear Before you Die: Artists beginning with C". The Guardian (London). 19 November 2007. Retrieved 3 January 2013. 
  16. ^ "Albums and Tracks of the Year: 1990". NME. Retrieved 3 January 2013. 
  17. ^ "The 100 greatest British albums". The Observer (London). Retrieved 3 January 2013. 

External links[edit]