The term best album of the decade gets thrown into the conversation pit seemingly every day, whether music was better before the eclipse of 2000 or if somehow innovation stopped January 1st, 2000.
In many ways, Heaven Or Las Vegas from Cocteau Twins is one of the most gorgeous records pressed onto a playable wax. The desert soundscape that Cocteau Twins paint with long exposure brushstrokes becomes comforting against the oblivion. The city of one million neon signs is the brightest star in the night sky, but Heaven Or Las Vegas takes sin city in a different set of eyes.
The record opens with “Cherry-coloured Funk” where the ethereal vocals from Elizabeth Fraser establish a setting of both outlandish beauty, but also this emotional daunting too. Nearly impossible to decipher from the first listen, the language appears almost foreign to the ears.
Describing, “Bills and aches and blues, and bills and aches and blues. Bills and aches and blues, and poor little everything else. But still more unstable, eyes of glass.” Bitter behind the poetry, Cocteau Twins instrumentally take guitar from Robin Guthrie and bass from Simon Raymonde to cover the string sections. The percussion and programming was completed by Guthrie’s golden grace.
While often quite simple for performance, the production and styling are what enthralls the audience. The instruments capture the senses and immediately refract some of that light away and onto a canvas.
Especially on pieces like “Iceblink Luck” where the upbeat style is a sudden change for Cocteau Twins but is a welcome one. The more rampant drumming and faster delivery from Fraser becomes a positive outlook on a typically stunning album. They spend a majority building around the isolative factors where the spotlight burns on either the vocals or the spacious instrumentation. The following title track, “Heaven Or Las Vegas” is hard to focus on with an overwhelming sense of attraction.
The instrumentation begins as subtle and heavy on the bass lines from Raymonde. As the progression picks up speed, the chorus that describes, “Singing on a famous street, I just want to love, I’ve all the wrong glory. Am I just in Heaven or Las Vegas? Whichever’s more brighter than the sun is to me.” leaves an idea engulfed in absolutely regal silk.
It transitions quickly a personal favorite of the record, taking steps from the physical and nearly directly into a line of exquisite prowess. Just the way that Fraser can manipulate her vocals to reminiscence over the angels, this is the perfect last song of a lifetime.
Heaven Or Las Vegas appears out of the clouds of mist and shrouded mystery to coincide within a comforting demise. Almost as if the sun was burning out and this is the final 37 minutes left on Earth, they have to be spent with Cocteau Twins.