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Cocteau Twins Biography

Last updated: 06/01/2011 12:00:00 PM

You don't have to love the Cocteau Twins in order to appreciate their contribution to and impact on independent music over the last 14 years, but it helps. Many a journalist and more than a few more famous personalities (Madonna, Michael Jackson, Prince, Annie Lenox, Robert Plant...) have expressed their exasperation over the Cocteaus' unique and often overwhelming sounds. The volume of Cocteau Twins-related traffic on the Internet alone is testament to how profoundly effective their music has been. Nevertheless, you'd be hard-pressed to find the average individual who'd know what the hell you were talking about if you started discussing ark-larks, itchy glowbo-blows, fifty-fifty clowns, and calfskin-smacks.

But many hundreds of thousands of people all over the world would know what you were talking about. Not only that, there are more than a few bands who owe their inspiration to the Cocteaus, as well. In spite of this, though, the Cocteau Twins continue to be among the more obscure and yet quite successful (not to mention respected) artists around. Until recently, fairly little was known about them or their long history, and the typical fan has always had more than a handful of questions.

Much of this can be attributed to circumstance and the band's punk roots. A staple of the revered and oft-enigmatic record label 4AD for nine years, the band developed an innaccurate reputation for being aloof and pristine (trust me, they're neither), and 4AD did little in the way of promoting them. They rarely gave interviews, and those they gave were vague and often uninformative; Music videos were few and far between, and live tours were focused mainly in the UK and Europe. At least one of the truths is that they weren't all that interested in the typical rock and roll fame and fortune, and their punk ideologies and individual instincts didn't click with the traditional ideas of success and wealth.

Instead, they chose to keep a low profile -- keep their private lives private -- and reinvest the bulk of their earnings and energies back into their music, a practise which subsequently characterized them as one of the most prolific bands ever. Although some incorrectly assume their 1990 LP Heaven or Las Vegas to be their first album, they may be surprised to learn that, by that time, the Cocteau Twins had already released no less than seven albums and eight EPs (and have since released a 10-CD box-set, two LPs, two proper EPs, and at least 6 singles. Not to mention all the guest appearances and film soundtracks).

Misconceptions have been numerous, and rumours frequent. The Cocteau Twins' cult-like following had little beyond the music itself, and naturally wanted to know more. But interviews and articles -- which themselves were published few and far-between -- were sometimes as unrevealing and opaque as was the music.

Bits of truth and good-humored misinformation often led to rumours, some of which persist to the present day. For years, questions like How many women are there in the band? (Just one), Are Robin and Liz a couple? (They used to be, but aren't any longer), In what language is she singing? (Usually just a sort of English, but often a random mixture of words from other languages and words she has made up herself), What do the band members look like? (Go to the Gallery and see for yourself!), Where did the name Cocteau Twins come from? (An old Simple Minds song...), etc. etc. were answered in every conceivable fashion, and once included the absurd idea that the band practised witchcraft! Everyone had their own story of what the Cocteaus were all about, and continue to have. And perhaps that was best; After all, the music often lends itself to individual interpretation anyway.

But today things are different. Very different. Since the release of Heaven or Las Vegas, the shroud of mystery has finally begun to lift, and everyone can plainly see that the Cocteau Twins are really no different from anyone else -- they just happen to make exceptionally unique music. The journey to where they are now has often been less than a fairy tale and they've managed to survive a number of personal and professional tribulations. Their deteriorated and unhealthy relationship with 4AD was severed in 1990, and they have since found a new home with Fontana Records in the UK, while maintaining their thus-far successful relationship with Capitol Records elsewhere.

The last four years have brought on some serious personal challenges that would have torn apart most relationships for good. Lucky for the rest of the world, they're still here. And they're far from finished. Now parents and in their thirties, Robin, Liz and Simon are trying their best to live mature, responsible lives, explore their diverse musical tastes and talents, and enjoy themselves and their successes -- something they are now growing to accept and embrace. After all, they've earned it.

Which brings us to the topic at-hand. With the popularization of the Internet and the advent of the World Wide Web, the dissemination of information has become virtually instantaneous. The Cocteau Twins are among the many hundreds of other bands who are using this resource as a means of keeping in touch with their millions of fans and other interested parties.

We felt it only natural that this would be the place to tell their story as best can be and try to set the record straight, as it were. The title, Treasure Hiding, is also the title of a song on the band's newest record, Milk and Kisses, and perhaps best describes the story behind the Cocteau Twins -- a sort of hidden treasure. The History is, perhaps fittingly, organized around their music. You may select any of the links at left to directly access a chapter. There are links provided throughout which will connect you to other parts of Treasure, including the Discography and a variety of photographs, song samples, video clips, and other related Internet sites.