#KickingtheCanon by Taylor Murnane Music

Cocteau Twins | Treasure

March 25, 2019

From their first release (1982’s Garlands), Cocteau Twins enjoyed critical acclaim. But it was only after the departure of founding member and bassist Will Heggie — and the induction of his replacement, Simon Raymonde — in 1983, that the band would settle into the sound, and the line-up, that would define them up until their breakup, more than a decade later. Despite accounts from the members themselves that the sessions for 1984’s Treasure were “rushed,” this is the album that marked the concretization of Cocteau Twins, and that made them legends of their genre. Or maybe that should be genres: shoegaze and dream-pop, both were defined, and popularized, in part through efforts of this group, and their emphasis on atmospherics which could be said to be almost otherworldly.

The variation in sound and mood across Treasure is staggering: One song is joyous and celebratory, while the very next can be intense and disconcerting. Opener “Ivo” (named after the founder of record label 4AD) and the subsequent “Lorelei” fall into the former category, while the foreboding “Beatrix” turns the album’s mood darker, with abstract synths and a solemn bass-line. If “Beatrix” is foreboding, though, “Persephone” is downright aggressive, trading the so-far loose and abstract guitars for a hard strum that’s reinforced by a heavy, persistent drum beat. And “Pandora (For Cindy)” starts the process all over again, it being the softest, most non-threatening track here. But it’s album-closing “Domino” that finally brings things all together, beginning as an airy continuation of the preceding “Otterly,” and then shifting paradigms, suddenly and provocatively, about a third of the way through.

The album that marked the concretization of Cocteau Twins, and that made them legends of their genre. Or maybe that should be genres: shoegaze and dream-pop, both were defined, and popularized, in part through efforts of this group, and their emphasis on atmospherics which could be said to be almost otherworldly.

In addition to the sonic vacillations, vocalist Elizabeth Fraser’s infamously abstract approach to lyricism furthers the sense of ‘alien-ness’ that defines Treasure. Prime examples include “Aloysius,” whose lyrics comprise various plays on the letter “s” (in both Latin and English), and the next track, “Cicely,” which at first glance seems more coherent, but upon closer inspection is clearly either stream-of-consciousness or intentional nonsense. “Pandora (For Cindy)” provides perhaps the strongest proof of Fraser’s idiosyncratic, wonderfully illogical approach to songwriting, flawlessly intertwining real English words, plays on other languages, and pure idioglossia. All this might further enforce the point of this being a rushed album, or even “an abortion,” as lead guitarist Simon Guthrie has been quoted as saying, but Treasure‘s approach proved influential, helping bring a new kind of ethereality to the indie music scene. The album remains a major presence in the minds of dream-pop and shoegaze fans to this day, and an absolute classic of both genres — as well as one of Cocteau Twins most essential releases.

Part of Kicking the Canon – The Album Canon.

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