Monday, June 30, 2014

#MySummerJam: Cocteau Twins' “Frou-frou Foxes in Midsummer Fires”

WARNING: Like most supernatural creatures, sunlight does this song no favors. For best effect, listen only at night.

“Frou-frou Foxes in Midsummer Fires” is the showstopping finale to Cocteau Twins’ best album, Heaven or Las Vegas. Don’t bother trying to figure out the lyrics, as lyricist/singer Elizabeth Fraser is deliberately obscurantist, and her word choice always favors sound over meaning. Listen, though, and you will catch the “firedrakes and visions” that flash through this lushly arranged piece of minor-key tension and major-key release.

Listening to the evolution of Elizabeth Fraser’s voice, from a wan Siouxsie Sioux-wannabe to Master Class Vocal Goddess is one of the rewards of being a Cocteau Twins fan, and here in this 1990 piece we enjoy the full flowering of Fraser’s voice, a happy result of the hormones produced by a recent childbirth, she and Cocteau Twins’ guitarist/musical director Robin Guthrie having welcomed a daughter into the world just before starting work on Heaven or Las Vegas. Sadly, they would release only two more albums after this, and in terms of songcraft, only their swan song, Milk and Kisses, came close. This was as good as Cocteau Twins would get. Still, when your best is indispensable, one can hardly complain. 

As with all Cocteau Twins’ tracks, all voices belong to Fraser. The frou-frou media would have us believe Mariah Carey is a Great Singer because she can squeal like a dolphin, but this, my friends, is range:

Just me, of course, but while listening to this I see those Midsummer Night bonfires burning bright. I feel the urgency of a distant, but approaching winter as the days now lose their light. Let us enjoy the warmth while it lasts, because we’ll be housebound by the cold before we know it.