Release Date: Nov 10, 2009
Record label: Ocean Tours Ltd
Performing their classic album Ocean Rain last year and acquiring a new rhythm section and producer (Busted man John McLaughlin) seems to have rejuvenated the Bunnymen. Their most accessible offering in a long time sees Ian McCulloch at his most lyrically playful and cocksure, hovering between confessional ("I cried a fountain dry") and mischievous, and firing off one-liners as if it were the band's 80s heyday. Will Sergeant's guitar-playing is at its scintillating best, although it is piano that backs the album's most enduring moment, the tearily anthemic The Idolness of Gods.
Echo and the Bunnymen have now released as many studio albums since their reunion as the original quartet did during its run in the 1980s. Comparing the two careers directly probably isn't fair-- after all, it was the same quartet of Ian McCulloch, Will Sergeant, Les Pattinson, and Pete de Freitas that made those first five albums, whereas the reunion version never had de Freitas (he died in a motorcycle accident in 1989) and lost Pattinson after one album. Anyone who thinks bassists and drummers aren't important to the sound of a rock band could take a lesson there, as not having their old rhythm section has clearly made a difference.
Echo & the Bunnymen's latter-day career has become a classic example of the old "live by the sword, die by the sword" adage. If an album like The Fountain was released by a band with no history, or one with an unexceptional track record, it would likely be deemed a promising effort. But the Bunnymen blazed a burning path through the '80s, turning out some of the era's most original, unforgettable sonic statements, a looming legacy that gives them a lot to live up to.
You just had a feeling it would eventually come to this with Echo & the Bunnymen. First off, let’s get something out of the way, and yes, it’s going to hurt. Ian MCulloch’s voice is fried. Finished. Done. Over. Kaput. Fini. What was once one of the great instruments in rock music is no more ….
As much as I enjoy bands like The Arcade Fire and The National, it confounds me when I hear people lauding their novelty. Bands like Echo and the Bunnymen may have something to say about that. After all, their masterpiece, 1984’s Ocean Rain, is undergoing a reexamination for both its brilliance and long-lasting influence. In fact, the brooding, mystical, orchestral-pop opus has been the subject of two reissues over the past decade, and the band has recently made several live appearances featuring track-by-track performances of the album in its entirety.