ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN, IAN MCCULLOCH AND ELECTRAFIXION: ALBUM REVIEWS
Sixteen Detailed Essays by a Biased, Non-Cool, Middle-Aged but Decidedly Pro-Bunny Victorianist
CROCODILES [Echo and the Bunnymen; 1980]
HEAVEN UP HERE [Echo and the Bunnymen; 1981]
PORCUPINE [Echo and the Bunnymen; 1983]
OCEAN RAIN [Echo and the Bunnymen; 1984]
SONGS TO LEARN AND SING [Echo and the Bunnymen; 1985]
ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN [Echo and the Bunnymen; 1987]
CANDLELAND [Ian McCulloch solo; 1989]
MYSTERIO [Ian McCulloch solo; 1992]
BURNED [Electrafixion; 1995]
EVERGREEN [Echo and the Bunnymen; 1997]
WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH YOUR LIFE? [Echo and the Bunnymen; 1999]
FLOWERS [Echo and the Bunnymen; 2001]
CRYSTAL DAYS (4-cd box set) [Echo and the Bunnymen; 2001]
LIVE IN LIVERPOOL [Echo and the Bunnymen; 2002]
SLIDELING [Ian McCulloch solo; 2003]
SIBERIA [Echo and the Bunnymen; 2005]
[Echo and the Bunnymen; 2001]
1. King Of Kings
2. Supermellow Man
3. Hide And Seek
4. Make Me Shine
5. It's Alright
6. Buried Alive
8. Everybody Knows
9. Life Goes On
10. An Eternity Turns
11. Burn For Me
Flowers bloom in many guises. They take forms as all-out romantic as a fragrant red rose, as endearingly off-kilter as a sunflower, or as guilelessly lovely as a daisy. They burst with the gaillardia's bright exuberance, twine with the sultry grace of a night-blooming jasmine, or haunt with the moonflower's fragile, ethereal beauty. FLOWERS presents a wonderful mixed bouquet of all of these.
King Of Kings, a fine 'rock star as savior' parody with serious undertones, must be a lily …. But not a white one. After all, the song's protagonist has broken his wings, lost his crown and developed a healthy fear of heights. Perhaps a tiger lily. Music and lyrics mesh perfectly, with the song swooping and gliding and sometimes wafting through the melodic eddies like a few stray wing-feathers from this archangel a little damaged. The lushly done, vibrantly sung Supermellow Man trembles with regret, remorse and outright romanticism. One might add a fourth 'r' - reverence - for Ian McCulloch's graceful tribute to his native city: "In the pool of my life/Kissing the ground that made me".
Will Sergeant's musical inventiveness (and love of 60s psychedelia) come to the fore in Hide And Seek's spacey mix of melodies and counter-melodies. Some nicely archaic language ("Traced and feathered, laced and bound") and a vocal that evokes the ghost of Jim Morrison make for an etherized trip through a dark looking glass. Make Me Shine wins the heart both for what it is and for what it is not. It is full-bodied and melodic, not fulsome and dramatic; charming without being coy or trite; purely sweet, not saccharine. It is, in sum, a genuine love song, not a silly one.
It's Alright finds McCulloch declaring:
"Somebody wants you
Someone out there
Somebody needs you
with the earnest intensity of Tony Robbins or the village curate. But before things get sticky the forces of darkness swoop in, as McCulloch exclaims "Here they come again/Whispers in my head ….". Good and Evil chase each other around through chiming, cascading guitars, assorted bells, whistles and dings and an enthusiastic "alright!" chorus.
A theremin winds its plaintive tremolo through the dark landscape of Buried Alive. The subject is death, and McCulloch draws from Dylan Thomas, Lou Reed, a surrealist painter named Paul Delvaux and a classic science fiction novel to weave a song both heartbreaking and life affirming. "Somewhere under a Delvaux moon/Childhoods end came too soon", he sums up, simply. Flowers by rights ought to be sung in a smoky little nightclub somewhere, but its sparse arrangement and the clarity of the instruments give it an oddly spacious feel. World-weary, bluesy, slinky and oh-so-cool, it hovers near the edge of crying into the whiskey, but never goes over.
Everybody Knows, the gaillardia of the group, gallops along with vigor, Sergeant's fine guitar workout making up for McCulloch's less than inspired lyrics ("It's moving much too fast/You know it ain't gonna last/I think we're heading for a crash"). The similarly constituted Life Goes On offers a crashing, swelling melody along with more imaginative imagery ("I'm gonna grow those wings/And learn to fly and hit the skyway"). An Eternity Turns plunges through turbulent guitar maelstroms and darkly tense, pulsating eddies as if it were on the road to Perdition, as some of McCulloch's wide-screen, Technicolor imagery suggests. This is the FLOWERS epic, and the Bunnymen make the most of it.
The album closes with Burn For Me, a song of remarkable depth and beauty which can, and probably should be, read simultaneously as an erotic love song, a metaphor of death, and a parable about the union of the individual soul with something greater than itself. Shifts in word usage and imagery within the song play each interpretation against the others. The music shimmers and ripples like moonlit pools of sound, as languidly romantic as a summer night by the shore of a tropical sea. This song is moonflower, jasmine and rose, all in one
Flowers bloom in many guises. And that is the secret of their beauty.
CROCODILES HEAVEN UP HERE PORCUPINE OCEAN RAIN SONGS TO LEARN AND SING ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN CANDLELAND MYSTERIO BURNED EVERGREEN WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH YOUR LIFE? FLOWERS CRYSTAL DAYS LIVE IN LIVERPOOL SLIDELING SIBERIA
Kristin F. Smith
October 23rd, 2003
This page last updated: September 6th, 2005
An Annotated Discography: Works by Echo and the Bunnymen, Ian McCulloch, Will Sergeant, Electrafixion and Glide
The Bunnymen Concert Log: A comprehensive, annotated listing of concert dates, venues and set lists for Echo and the Bunnymen, Ian McCulloch and Electrafixion (off-site link)
The Songwriter as Poet: Ian McCulloch and the Pre-Raphaelite Tradition (off-site link)
Bunnymen.info - The (Unofficial) News Source (off-site link, run by Charles Pham)
Aldems' Political Quotations: Apt and Otherwise
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