Release Date: 17 September 1990
Signed by Simon Raymonde.
Dream pop’s most influential band created its masterpiece amidst pregnancies, marriages, deaths, addictions and relationship failures, but you might not know it from listening. Cocteau Twins all but introduced the concept of glossolalia to pop music, and you’d be hard-pressed to clearly make out more than a few passing phrases—“I only want to love you,” “burn this whole madhouse down,” “my baby’s cries”—while listening to Heaven or Las Vegas. And that’s not the craziest part: When the Scottish trio released this landmark album in 1990, many critics said that frontperson Elizabeth Fraser had never sounded clearer. Fair enough given the LP’s five predecessors, but the joy of Heaven or Las Vegas is that you don’t need to know what Fraser is saying (even if the few discernible lyrics are immensely personal) to fall into a stupor. Her technicolor trills are as sweeping as a warm summer breeze, Robin Guthrie’s guitars and drum programming sparkle and echo as entrancingly as a hypnotist’s pendulum, and Simon Raymonde’s bass and piano are as immersive as a five-star spa’s hot tub. “Frou-Frou Foxes In Midsummer Fires” is the climactic closer and “Pitch the Baby” is the vaguely trance-like early highlight, but the title track is the album’s literal and figurative centerpiece (and perhaps dream pop’s all-time pinnacle). Atop guitars that gleam like diamonds, pianos that drip like water and a hefty whisper of a drum shuffle, Frasier’s voice resounds so beautifully, it’s literally stunning. At one point she sings (fully audibly!), “It must be why I’m thinking of Las Vegas,” but 1990’s best album is entirely heaven.
- Max Freedman, Paste Magazine