Heaven or Las Vegas

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Heaven or Las Vegas
Cocteau Twins—Heaven or Las Vegas.jpg
Studio album by Cocteau Twins
Released17 September 1990
StudioSeptember Sound, Twickenham, England
GenreDream pop
Length37:42
Label4AD
ProducerCocteau Twins
Cocteau Twins chronology
Blue Bell Knoll
(1988)
Heaven or Las Vegas
(1990)
Four-Calendar Café
(1993)

Heaven or Las Vegas is the sixth studio album by Scottish alternative rock band Cocteau Twins, their last for the music label 4AD. It was released on 17 September 1990.

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.

Heaven or Las Vegas peaked at No. 7 on the UK Albums Chart and No. 99 on the Billboard 200,[1][2] becoming their most commercially successful release. It eventually sold 235,000 copies by 1996, according to Billboard.[3] The record was included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[4]

Background and development[edit]

Cocteau Twins released their fifth album, Blue Bell Knoll, in 1988. Despite inking a major label deal with Capitol Records, the band declined to promote it extensively; no singles were issued outside of the United States and the album was not supported by a tour.[5] The band brought on a manager for the first time as they ran into tax trouble previously. Watts-Russell, 4AD president at the time, reportedly "didn't care" for the new manager and his relationship with the band began to sour.[6]

The band took on new familial responsibilities as bassist Simon Raymonde married his first wife, Karen, and vocalist Elizabeth Fraser was expecting her first child with guitarist and co-founder Robin Guthrie.[7] The latter's cocaine habit previously "escalated" during the recording process for Blue Bell Knoll;[8] Fraser and Raymonde believed that the new baby would prove a diversion from Guthrie's dependency and allow the pair to "play [as] happy families".[7] Their wishes did not pan out, with Guthrie relying heavily on drugs as the band developed Heaven or Las Vegas, causing him to experience "deep" paranoia and mood swings.[8][5] His relationship with Fraser grew increasingly strained as a result.[9]

In September 1989, the couple welcomed their daughter, Lucy Belle;[5] Heaven or Las Vegas would eventually be released on her first birthday.[10] Regarding her pregnancy, Fraser commented that she gained clarity in perception of what mattered to her most: "Suddenly I had confidence which I'd never ever had in my life, 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".[11] Raymonde's father, Ivor Raymonde, died shortly after Lucy Belle's birth, as the band were in the middle of recording. He recounted: "I was only 27, I was still quite young and he was a very influential guy for me so that was a big blow but, looking back on it, having a major life event happening probably helped the record have that edge to it".[7]

Recording and composition[edit]

The album is noteworthy for the musical evolution that the band displayed at the time, with their work becoming more accessible. Fraser's lyrics were more intelligible; many concerned her newborn daughter Lucy Belle, particularly "Pitch the Baby", which is about her experience in giving birth and welcoming a child.[7][12] Despite a majority of Fraser's lyrics "[emerging] in alien tongues", which she sums up as "laziness" and "bad diction", she attributed the album's more identifiable words to Lucy Belle's influence.[10]

"There was salvation in [Fraser's vocals and lyrics] too, in terms of helping save her relationship with [Guthrie], the joy of bringing a baby into the world that they could love. It did give them a new lease of life, and it gave the album an energy and vibrancy. It was very easy to make the music".[5]

Raymonde wrote "Frou-Frou Foxes in Midsummer Fires" the day after his father's death,[7] and Heaven or Las Vegas would straddle the two themes: "[...] writing songs about birth, and also death, gave the record a darker side that I hear in songs like 'Cherry-Coloured Funk' and 'Fotzepolitic'".[5] Despite being in a "very good space musically" and describing the recording process as an "inspirational time", Raymonde noted: "It was trying to mask all the other shit that was going on that we didn't want to stop and think about for too long".[7] In a retrospective of 4AD by music journalist Martin Aston, he noted that Fraser named the album Heaven or Las Vegas as "a suggestion of truth versus artifice, of music versus commerce, or perhaps a gamble, one last throw of the dice".[13]

Heaven or Las Vegas' drum programming was done by Guthrie, the first step in the template of every Cocteau Twins recording session. Guthrie and Raymonde would construct the music before Fraser stepped in the studio to record her vocals.[10] Raymonde likened Guthrie's rhythms on the album to hip hop beats–despite their music being far removed from it, he acknowledged that it came from a "dance-y" place.[7] Much of Heaven or Las Vegas' "mysterious" instrumental effects were achieved by accident, with guitars as opposed to "omnipresent" synthesizers.[10] As a result of Guthrie's decreased time in the studio, Raymonde's playing was more in the forefront and he became more involved in the recording process.[12][6] Raymonde recounted that he would record Fraser's vocals alone for days at a time, during which he first "fully appreciated how amazing she was": "She'd come into the control room and say, 'What was that like?' and I'd scrape the tears away and say, 'That was alright, Liz'. She didn't get off on praise. If I said. 'That was fucking amazing', she'd say 'I thought it was shit.' I learnt not to be too effusive, which was difficult because I was so blown away with what I was hearing."[6]


"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".[11]

Artwork and release[edit]

The band desired a visual representation that would "[capture] the ethereal", according to Guthrie.[14] Paul West, of the design studio Form, previously worked with Cocteau Twins on the cover for Blue Bell Knoll. West recruited photographer Andy Rumball, and the pair experimented with various materials in order to generate a "textural and otherworldly" effect.[14] The final artwork is a long exposure of Christmas tree lights that were flicked against a color backdrop, with its typography produced by hand on an acetate overlay. Much of the original artwork was later destroyed in a flood.[14]

Heaven or Las Vegas was released on 17 September 1990 by 4AD in the United Kingdom, and in conjunction with Capitol Records in the United States. 4AD later reacquired American distribution rights for much of its back catalogue, resulting in a 2003 reissue solely on 4AD, which was remastered by Guthrie.[15] A vinyl edition of the reissue was released in July 2014,[1] which was repressed on 180g using new high definition masters.[16]

Critical reception and legacy[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic5/5 stars[17]
Entertainment WeeklyB−[18]
NME8/10[19]
Orlando Sentinel4/5 stars[20]
Pitchfork10/10[21]
Q4/5 stars[22]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide4/5 stars[23]
Select4/5[24]
Sounds4/5 stars[25]
Vox10/10[26]

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".[22] 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".[27]

"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".[24] "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".[26]

It was listed as the 90th best album of the 1990s by Pitchfork, who complimented Fraser's more direct vocals and the album's complex songwriting.[28] The album was also included in the 2008 edition of 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die,[29] and in The Guardian's online edition of a similar list.[30] 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".[17]

Heaven or Las Vegas was named by NME as the 28th best album of 1990.[31] Retrospectively, The Observer listed the album as the 97th greatest British album ever made.[32] In 2017, NPR listed Heaven or Las Vegas at number 138 of the 150 Greatest Albums Made By Women.[33] In 2018, Pitchfork ranked it first on its list of the 30 best dream pop albums.[34]

R&B singer the Weeknd named a song "Heaven or Las Vegas" on his Thursday mixtape,[35] and he sampled "Cherry-Coloured Funk" for his song "The Knowing" from House of Balloons (2011).

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by and produced by Cocteau Twins.

No.TitleLength
1."Cherry-Coloured Funk"3:12
2."Pitch the Baby"3:14
3."Iceblink Luck"3:18
4."Fifty-Fifty Clown"[a]3:17
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"[b]5:48
Notes
  1. ^ "Fifty-Fifty Clown" is 3:10 in length on 2014 remastered edition.
  2. ^ "Frou-Frou Foxes in Midsummer Fires" is 5:38 in length on 2014 remastered edition.

Personnel[edit]

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

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Cocteau Twins: 'Blue Bell Knoll' and 'Heaven or Las Vegas' LP Represses Coming this July". 4AD. 22 May 2014. Archived from the original on 13 February 2016. Retrieved 5 August 2017.
  2. ^ "Cocteau Twins – Chart History". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Archived from the original on 10 April 2015. Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  3. ^ Bambarger, Bradley (6 April 1996). "Radio Climate Could Boost Capitol's Cocteau Twins". Billboard. Vol. 104 no. 14. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. p. 14. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  4. ^ Morton, Rob (2006). Dimery, Robert, ed. 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. New York: Universe. p. 634. ISBN 0789320746.
  5. ^ a b c d e Aston, Martin. "Searching for Heaven". 4AD. Archived from the original on 14 December 2015. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  6. ^ a b c Irvin, Jim (April 2006). "The Cocteau Twins". The Word. Retrieved 15 October 2018 – via Rock's Backpages. (Subscription required (help)).
  7. ^ a b c d e f g McAuliffe, Colm (1 July 2014). "Divine Rapture: Simon Raymonde Revisits Cocteau Twins' Purple Patch". The Skinny. Archived from the original on 1 April 2016. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  8. ^ a b Lindsay, Cam (10 July 2015). "An Essential Guide to Cocteau Twins". Exclaim!. Archived from the original on 12 June 2015. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  9. ^ Riley, Danny (1 August 2014). "Cocteau Twins – Blue Bell Knoll/Heaven or Las Vegas (Reissue)". The Quietus. Archived from the original on 15 October 2018. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  10. ^ a b c d Brown, Joe (9 November 1990). "Trying to Get a Twins Peek". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Archived from the original on 15 October 2018. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  11. ^ a b O'Connell, Clodagh (October 1990). "Interview". Select.
  12. ^ a b Deusner, Stephen (16 July 2014). "Cocteau Twins: Blue Bell Knoll/Heaven or Las Vegas Album Review". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on 18 July 2014. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  13. ^ Martin, Aston (2013). Facing the Other Way: The Story of 4AD. London: HarperCollins Publishers Limited. ISBN 0007489617. OCLC 853505613.
  14. ^ a b c "Heaven or Las Vegas is 26 today". Form. 17 September 2016. Archived from the original on 20 September 2016. Retrieved 5 August 2017.
  15. ^ "Cocteau Twins - Heaven Or Las Vegas [2003 reissue]". Redsun Records (in Dutch). Archived from the original on 8 August 2017. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  16. ^ Heaven or Las Vegas, Amazon, 16 September 2014, retrieved 15 October 2018
  17. ^ a b Raggett, Ned. "Heaven or Las Vegas – Cocteau Twins". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 22 June 2012. Retrieved 30 March 2018.
  18. ^ Sandow, Greg (21 September 1990). "Heaven or Las Vegas". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on 29 September 2015. Retrieved 29 September 2015.
  19. ^ Ellen, Barbara (15 September 1990). "Terrible Twins". NME.
  20. ^ Henderson, Bill (26 October 1990). "Cocteau Twins". Orlando Sentinel. Archived from the original on 7 April 2017. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
  21. ^ Deusner, Stephen (16 July 2014). "Cocteau Twins: Blue Bell Knoll / Heaven or Las Vegas". Pitchfork. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
  22. ^ a b Aston, Martin (October 1990). "Cocteau Twins: Heaven Or Las Vegas". Q. Retrieved 15 October 2018 – via Rock's Backpages. (Subscription required (help)).
  23. ^ Considine, J. D. (2004). "Cocteau Twins". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian. The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Simon & Schuster. pp. 174–75. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  24. ^ a b Perry, Andrew (October 1990). "Viva Las Vegas". Select. No. 4. p. 95.
  25. ^ Phillips, Shaun (15 September 1990). "Heaven Scent". Sounds.
  26. ^ a b Morton, Roger (October 1990). "Cocteau Twins: Heaven or Las Vegas". Vox.
  27. ^ Q, January 1991
  28. ^ LeMay, Matt (17 November 2003). "Top 100 Albums of the 1990s – 090: Cocteau Twins Heaven or Las Vegas". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on 5 April 2016. Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  29. ^ Dimery, Robert (2013). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. London: Cassell Illustrated. ISBN 9781844037353. OCLC 855705638.
  30. ^ "1000 Albums to Hear Before you Die: Artists beginning with C". The Guardian. London. 19 November 2007. Archived from the original on 30 September 2013. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
  31. ^ "Albums and Tracks of the Year: 1990". NME. Archived from the original on 8 February 2017. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
  32. ^ "The 100 greatest British albums". The Observer. London. Archived from the original on 8 April 2016. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
  33. ^ Lorusso, Marissa (24 July 2017). "The 150 Greatest Albums Made By Women". NPR. Archived from the original on 25 July 2017. Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  34. ^ "The 30 Best Dream Pop Albums". Pitchfork. 16 April 2018. p. 3. Archived from the original on 24 April 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  35. ^ Reese, Nathan (22 August 2011). "This is Our Jam: The Weeknd, "Heaven or Las Vegas"". Refinery29. Archived from the original on 25 August 2011. Retrieved 15 October 2018.

External links[edit]