Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Not-Quite-Human: Crushed

Yet another eerily revealing still from a Cocteau Twins video

Both vocally and verbally, Elizabeth Fraser showed herself to be highly adept at wielding the archetypes. There were times when she seemed like Circe or Hecate, summoming unknowable entities simply with the sound of her voice. But just as with Jung, there's a danger in putting yourself so deep within the Dreamstream.

After being hospitalized for a nervous breakdown, Fraser emerged in 1994 spouting all the right therapeutic happy-talk in her interviews, but sounding completely psychotic onstage. This was all the more remarkable given the massive publicity push the band received that year, appearing on several different major TV shows.

From a 1995 Alternative Press piece:
Parenthood has clearly reordered Fraser's thinking, as has the self-examination she's undertaken since she had a nervous breakdown in 1993 while working on Four-Calendar Cafe.

"Everything ground to a halt," she explains. "I didn't know what was wrong with me." Entering a treatment facility in the U.S., she was admitted to a trauma unit and confronted both herself and those around her with some hard truths.

"I got told I was big-time co-dependent. I found out I was bulimic. I found out what I went through is called incest," she says. Deeply buried childhood memories became clearer. "You know, memories of being abused by people with no face. All you do is just cover up for those people, even while you're trying to remember."

When you're fresh off of a full-scale nervous breakdown, that's probably not the best time to go on The Tonight Show. I saw this when it first aired and was heartbroken. I had lost interest in the band at this point in time, but wasn't prepared for this kind of public meltdown. This was like watching a Saturday Night Live parody of the Cocteau Twins, only it wasn't remotely funny. Despite all of her empowerment therapy talk, Fraser seemed to be coming apart at the seams in public.

I can't help but wonder, in this moment of profound spiritual crisis was that Other Thing running the show? Fraser seems in thrall to, that's not right. She doesn't even seem like she's there. And when her eyes are open in that clip she looks completely bewildered. And then the eyes shut and the weird Yoko/exotic bird noises resume completely disregarding the melody or the rhythm or the lyrics of the song.

I'm not an expert on the topic (in fact I'm downright uninformed on it), but I can't imagine that "walk-ins" drop in on happy souls with pleasant lives, and nothing is more damaging to a psyche than sexual abuse. But the backstory is instructive, because I begin to see the crucial period of the Cocteau Twins as this dance between two wounded souls - Fraser and her addicted husband Robin Guthrie - channeling much deeper energies in their own way and having a profound influence on many others' lives.

No matter what beauty it manifests, a collaboration based so deeply in emotional turmoil will eventually run aground, and those energies will find new places to go. But the greater story- and the synchronistic footprints it has left- is what we have to understand and incorporate into our own lives.

Fraser would regain her voice and return to form in 1996. But as we've seen, an otherworldly tragedy would visit itself upon her the following year. And then there is this strange publicity photo that's recently surfaced, that I don't know what the hell to make of.


  1. Dude... what are you talking about? Sure, the song is a little weird, but it is in no way outside the bounds of standard alternative trends in 20th century music. And yeah, she looks a little spooky in that pic, but not remarkably so. And people have nervous breakdowns every frigging day. To blame it on "walk-ins"? Come on.

  2. Read the series and the Siren series, Jerky. I'll be posting more pix from that photo session.

    I admit I'm going to the boundaries here, but there's enough of a trail here leading there. I'm not certain what's at play here which you will realize when you read the series. If you're not familiar with what I've been writing about that's another matter.

  3. I'm finally beginning to see some threads coming together here. I don't profess any prior knowledge of the CT - My time in the '80's was spent in bars trying to get laid - no CT there. Anyway, a fascinating series, and I may not exactly know what you're talking about either, but I like listening.

  4. I'm going to spell it all out in the next installment. I've been a little sporadic with this story, but I don't want to be overly predictable.

    Suffice it to say that in 1986 I felt like something was being revealed to me when I listened to the Twins. It took me a long time to figure out what that was.

  5. I mean, I like reading your stuff, but I'd hate to see you blown into less productive waters, is all I'm saying.

    I will stick with you, however, hvaing said my piece.

  6. I'll try to bring it all home for you in the next installment, my friend.

  7. I completely missed The Cocteau Twins, but they would have surely caught my attention then as they have now-- and this from someone who questions the intent of creating art for profit (and throughout the ages) as somehow less-than-pure; as well as the industry's current "War On Information-Sharing".
    (I imagine CT might have been even better outside of that system.)

    Thanks to the natural ways of sharing with my peers (a la bit torrent), I have become acquainted with their work in a different, compressed and free way.

    I suggest that CT's and/or their solo members' future (and even past) work would do well to simply have it released freely into the ether-- (perhaps also as separate-channel music files in the interest of collaboration. Think of the resulting creative explosion.)
    I may be about to do that with my own work, and you can see similar all over the internet if you're interested ( or for 2 examples). (If you like CT, and electronica, you might like Fieldtriqp's 'Old Haunts' as I do.)

    I almost never watch tv anymore. Much of it is junk-media, so, for example, I don't care about the Tonight Show (or how someone might appear on it).

    The new mainstream media is we. Let Liz et al. transcend their personality cults.

    I want to hear more We Music.

  8. Hi Christopher. I haven't read all of your posts, mainly because I don't find it easy to navigate and find all of the ones on Liz Fraser, my favourite musician.

    You hint at revelations in your own life, and I can guess at what they were. There are others in this world who know who they are, and I'm one of them. Not much use on face value, but I'd be happy to let you know more if you wish.


  9. Just commenting that the Cocteau Twins are one of my absolute favorites. I am Fieldtriqp btw.