BOSTON — It's been said that the Cocteau Twins are Metallica's favorite group. Yet not a trace of heavy metal can be heard in their songs. In fact, their music is just the opposite - delicate, airy, beautiful.
The alternative band has never attracted mass appeal, but their audience is one of the most diverse in music today. Made up of lead singer Elizabeth Fraser, bassist/pianist Simon Raymonde, and guitarist Robin Guthrie, the band is on a 20-city tour of the United States and played in Boston recently. The crowd was dressed in a variety of outfits that ranged from black leather, flannel shirts, and jeans, to flowery dresses.
"There's such a broad spectrum of fans," Raymonde said in a backstage interview. "We get the gothic types with the big spiky hair, black hair, black clothes that are left over from the '80s. Then there's a 55-year-old woman who got turned on to us by her daughter. She sends us flowers to our dressing room, and she's been to every single show. And we continue to appeal to college kids."
The band from Scotland sounds like no one else. Some bands come close, such as Enya, the Sundays, or Dead Can Dance, but no group or performer has quite captured their sound. The Cocteau Twins have actually paved the way for bands such as these. But their music isn't what you would see neatly packaged in an MTV video or heard frequently on the radio. Rather, their tunes can mostly be heard on college and alternative radio stations.
Part of the band's appeal comes from the fact that their music isn't loud or abrasive. It serves as a sweet diversion for fans who are into grunge rock, hard rock, or even hip-hop and techno. The atmosphere at the concert was so mellow that it could have easily been played in an intimate setting.
A casual listener may get the impression that the Cocteau Twins place more emphasis on rhythms and melodies since Fraser sings half-discernible lyrics, while layering her voice on the recordings. But Raymonde emphatically disagrees.
"[Some of the lyrics] could be described as phonetic," he says. "[Elizabeth] writes them down in a very strict structure, and she chooses words for the look of them or the sound of them. It could be English words, foreign words, or words she just makes up."
The band's latest album, "Milk and Kisses" (Capitol), is more personal compared with the band's eight previous albums because the lyrics come from Fraser's journal. Their career spans a decade and a half, and although the band has been through some rough times, they have managed to stay together.
"We've all done things apart," says Raymonde, "and I know that none of us quite get the same feelings from working with other people on our own as we do with each other. We all connect on a higher, spiritual level."
The band will conclude its tour at a stop on the Lollapalooza concert circuit, where bands like Metallica and Soundgarden will be performing. "The gig is sold out to metal heads," says Raymonde. "One would assume they are not interested in our music, and that in itself is quite a challenge. If we just continue to appeal to the same people, and just have a very narrow-minded attitude to our audience, then music is never going to change."
* The Cocteau Twins will be performing June 24 at the Mayan in Los Angeles, and June 27 in Longview, Mo., at Lollapalooza.