Treasure was where the Cocteau Twins first got it 100 percent right.
Chris Jones 2008-08-22
By 1983, the Cocteau Twins had lost their original bass player, Will Heggie, after two well-received albums that put them at the forefront of bands loved by the Peel-listening hordes. These grey masses had already voted them onto his influential Festive Fifty list, but they had far more to give. While ghosting their services to 4AD's This Mortal Coil project, they were to meet their new third member, Simon Raymonde, and with this, their third album, went from fey alternative heroes to full-on purveyors of dreamlike, Victoriana-soaked, splendour.
The fact remains that despite a whole host of post-punk wannabes adopting the flange 'n' drum machine tactics of the Twins, no-one has ever come remotely close to emulating their sound. They are, possibly, the perfect example of a band who inhabit their own hermetically-sealed universe. Fraser's voice to resort to cliche, can only be described as unearthly. The swoops, ululations and delicate, whimsical, nursery rhyme-aliteration were coaxed out of her famously painful shyness by bathing them in the new wave Phil Spectorism's of the trio's production style of reverb, drenched in delay...in a cathedral. Like Spector, the Cocteaus never knew the meaning of restraint when it came to processing a sound. But on Treasure, the style, which could prove a little too muddy, repetitive and overlayed on previous albums, here benefits from better digital equipment and Raymonde's production skills. Witness the way that the opener (and ode to 4AD label boss, Ivo Watts-Russell), Ivo, builds from folky lullaby to something that probably set Kevin Shields on his merry way.
Of course a little obfustication always adds to the mystique. Reams have been written by fans about the meaning of Fraser's lyrics. Yet, in the end, as with the single word song titles, you know that words are chosen for their resonance, not their meanings. At the beginning of Otterley does she really sing , "I'm a yum yum"? Probably not, but it doesn't matter. The childlike sing-song element, mixed with Fraser's astounding range, makes for a deceptively emotional mixture, evoking nostalgia, sadness, and vertigo.
To modern ears the drum machine's relentless boom can seem a little too rigorous, yet Guthrie's guitar - in part a successor to Vini Reilly's excercises in ambient picking, covering all bases from lacy filigree to roaring Glenn Branca-style sheets of noise - always keeps the ears aurally massaged. Quite simply, Treasure was where the Cocteau Twins first got it 100 percent right.