"I thought it was a really good idea because I thought, Well, what are people gonna see in these names? They're gonna realise it's got nothing to do with mythology and all that bollocks. Well, it's not bollocks, but I foolishly thought people wouldn't think that we were into that sort of thing." — Liz Fraser
As it turns out, number three was the charm. Whether that is good or bad depends upon who says it.
Treasure, though not exactly the Cocteau Twins' favorite body of work (but not because of the music), met with unprecedented praise and accolades from both fans and the press. In fact, some press response was near-hysterical at times, calling them "the voice of God."
Robin offers, "...I've always detested Treasure. Not because of the record, but because of the vibe at the time, when we were pushed into all that kind of arty-farty pre-Raphaellite bullshit. And so I was just really ashamed of that record." [Lime Lizard Magazine, 1993].
Be that as it may, Treasure is to this day cited as the favorite album by many Cocteau fans, who sometimes see it as the band's peak record. Others prefer to see Treasure as the band hitting their stride, with the new lineup congealing into a new sound with new possibilities. (In a poll taken at this Web site in 1996, Treasure was number three behind Blue Bell Knoll and Victorialand in the listing for "Favorite Album.")
When Treasure was released in October of 1984, the Cocteau Twins were by then well-established in the British and European independent music scene, and were starting to turn heads and ears in America, as well. In the UK, the album topped the Independent charts, and even made it as far as number 28 on the National Album chart. The album itself is not unworthy of the praise it received. At the time, it was—in true Cocteau fashion—unlike anything else anyone had yet heard. Treasure diverged from much of what had preceded it, and still managed to sound and feel natural, in spite of the very recent addition of Simon to the group.
Simon shared some of his thoughts on the subject in a 1989 interview, "...we spent a month doing the album...and, because we never really spent any time properly in each other's company, we were still getting to know each other. We'd only been friends for a little while...We just sort of recorded loads of things and then the album came out. It's like an unfinished record with probably two good pieces in there somewhere. It's our worst album by a mile." [Sound on Sound, July 1989].
Treasure marks a trend in Cocteau Twins' music to blur the edges more, and further detach the music from any sort of definite structure. The songs themselves rely heavily on effects, and often the sounds one hears are reminiscent of the baroque or more modern gothic/synthetic music (such as the Mike Oldfield "Tubular-Bells"-like "Otterley"), accompanied by layers of delayed or fuzzed-out guitars, and the occasional acoustic-style strumming rhythm (as on "Ivo" and "Cicely," for example). Simon's and Robin's lustrous style of bass-playing create a flowing underlay, working well with the much louder and more powerful drums, which sound much less synthetic on Treasure than they had previously. As with The Spangle Maker, the music on Treasure disconnects the listener from reality on many levels, creating distinct and non-corporeal atmospheres conducive to free-association.
Rather than whimsical phrase-like titles as with previous releases, Liz experimented with a collection of ten mysterious, pseudo-mythological sounding names, such as "Ivo" (an obvious nod), "Lorelei," "Cicely," "Aloysius," "Persephone," and "Pandora."
"They're beautiful words...It's strange; there's three buildings around Hammersmith, on the way from the Odeon to The Riverside, with names off Treasure. Also, in Holland, there's three buildings right next to each other and they're names off Treasure as well. It's incredible. We didn't know about them. The names didn't come from anywhere. They just came. I don't think it helped sales at all. All that 'Persephone' business." [Jamming Magazine, Dec 1985]
"I thought it was a really good idea because I thought, Well, what are people gonna see in these names?" Liz explained, "They're gonna realise it's got nothing to do with mythology and all that bollocks. Well, it's not bollocks, but I foolishly thought people wouldn't think that we were into that sort of thing." [Volume 5 Magazine, 1992]
Her lyrics are the most obscured of the early releases up to the end of 1984. There are real words here—even whole phrases—intermixed with old Scottish words or words of unknown origin. Liz's voice is more delicate than ever before, and more subtle, with her broad range more clearly demonstrated. The melodies in Treasure allude to the complexities of what was to be heard on Victorialand and Blue Bell Knoll years later.
The track order of the songs on Treasure is also noteworthy, and is itself indicative of the maturity of the recording. The album opens with the bright, warm and absorbing melodies of "Ivo," bleeds into the thumping chimes of "Lorelei," and flows quite naturally from there to the end, where the dark, whispered tones of "Otterley" precede the explosive finale of "Donimo." Some of the tracks even foreshadow future songs in their structural form, with "Otterley" hinting at Victorialand-era songs, and "Donimo" somewhat hinting at tunes like "Ooze Out and Away, Onehow" from The Moon and The Melodies, "Frou-Frou Foxes In Midsummer Fires," from Heaven or Las Vegas, "Pur" from Four-Calendar Café or "Seekers Who Are Lovers" from Milk & Kisses.
Promotional support for Treasure kept to the established patterns at the time. The band made yet another appearance on the John Peel Radio Show, with three tracks from Treasure: "Ivo," "Beatrix," and "Otterley" (with "Ivo" and "Beatrix" having the temporary titles of "Weesht" and "Peep-Bo," respectively). Additionally, a rather timid performance of "Lorelei" was done for the television programme "Whistle Test." Some tracks from "Treasure"—namely "Lorelei" and "Pandora"—made their way to live performance, but the album's material was, for the most part, left off the live set lists subsequently. There was an international tour in early 1985, with the Cocteaus making their first trip to Japan:
"They were so passionate, the Japanese," recalled Robin. "We were mobbed! Not like the Beatles! After every gig though, there would be people outside, people back at the hotel waiting for us, coming to the train station to see us off—2000-3000."
Elizabeth added, "Japan was...facken hell! I mean I was excited about going to Japan because I'd heard such things about it. I just expected it to be absolutely brilliant and it was better than that. I was useless by the way, by the time we got there. It was too hot and humid for me to sing and I had jet-lag and everything. I couldn't sing a bloody note, I couldn't breathe."
"...it was the first time they'd seen us. I don't know if they were big fans. Treasure was the best-selling of our albums over there. On the record sleeve, they won't hesitate to change the title, call it something different. Treasure is called The Woman the Gods Loved. It might have something to do with "Persephone," I don't know."
"It says on the [Japanese] sleeve that Robin does backing-vocals for us. And it says about us, 'Psychedelic but never freaky'!"
"They thought the Cocteau Twins were all girls. They came to all our gigs, never seen us before, you see, so they didn't know what to expect anyway. They were brilliant, but a bit confused. They thought I was singing in Japanese, which must be a compliment. People were apparently looking towards each other saying, 'Oh, they must have translated this, they must have sang in Japanese. Because they're in Japan'. That's wonderful. I feel a bit guilty because I didn't make the effort."
Dissatisfied with the video medium, no videos were produced for any track on Treasure.
By year's end, Treasure had been voted Best Album in the music polls, Liz was voted Best Female Vocalist, and, in an unusual and unauthorized move, a 48-minute interview picture disk was released by Baktabak Records which makes for a rather interesting listen.
Although Treasure has often been dismissed by the band for various reasons over the years, it still shows its face now and then at live performances; "Lorelei" has been performed regularly since 1984 and most recently on the Four-Calendar Café Tour in 1993/94. On the Milk & Kisses Tour in 1996, fans were pleasantly surprised to hear a powerful rendition of "Pandora" and a completely reconstructed version of "Aloysius"—which had been mixed live on-stage by Mark Clifford of Seefeel.
At the end of the day, Treasure will most likely continue to be considered by most fans and enthusiasts as exactly what its name implies, as well as continue to stand alongside Head Over Heels as a milestone in independent music history.