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]
[Ian McCulloch solo; 1992]
1. Magical World
2. Close Your Eyes
3. Dug for Love
6. Lover Lover Lover
9. Vibor Blue
10. Heaven's Gate
11. In My Head
MYSTERIO is like a cake thrown together from a mix, the lumps not entirely sifted out, baked in the wrong pan, scorched in a few places and underdone in others, the whole thing covered over with gobs of icing and those sprinkly things that are supposed to make cakes pretty. Like most cakes of this sort, parts of it are darn good - and parts should have been cut out and rendered into bread pudding.
Magical World manages the right blend of voice, music and atmosphere. Sweeping, full-bodied guitars twine through a reverberating thrum as Ian McCulloch sings with some asperity about castaways and stars and "silver shining holes" and such. The song does share a MYSTERIO tendency toward interminable choruses. Close Your Eyes is plain sloshy. It is overly orchestrated and cloyingly sweet -- a sticky meringue of a song.
I know it will be
Deterred this time
Or ever can be"
McCulloch declares with more conviction than coherence, through a mix of celestial trumpets, flashing cymbals and crooned "yeah, yeah"s. A lot of "doot-doot do do" stuff does not help. The guilelessly appealing Dug For Love gets the sugar content under control while retaining a gentle sweetness. There's a nicely subtle tropical flavor about this song, redolent of southern climes and drinks with lots of rum and ice and little paper umbrellas. McCulloch sings it with warmth and feeling.
Honeydrip ought to be better than it is, but remains too self-consciously mannered to take fire. Despite some interesting ingredients, it comes off as bland, and the lyrics could have used a tad more time in the oven. Damnation makes a shrill racket, as if proclaiming MYSTERIO the anti-CANDLELAND, but all the sound and fury signify little, mainly because it tries too hard. Some interesting lyrics nearly drown in the turbulence. But McCulloch's version of the Leonard Cohen song Lover Lover Lover provides the smooth and velvety-rich icing for this sporadically problematic cake. He sings Cohen wonderfully well, and it leaves a pleasant taste. Webbed wafts along as dreamily as the island breeze it conjures. The melody swirls and ebbs and flows with languid loveliness, while a steady drum machine beat keeps it from gliding off into a red and gold tropical sunset.
Pomegranate mixes cheerfully upbeat music and humorously offbeat, enthusiastically delivered lyrics, yielding raucous great good fun. To a stomping beat, McCulloch shouts out lines like:
Along with my conclusions
That came with much confusion
And led to my delusion
But got me on my way"
All of this has a certain esprit, like a homemade party cake with wildly colored icing and bright red candles set at jaunty angles.
The gorgeously ethereal Vibor Blue celebrates the sheer joy of language in a mix of English, bastardized Spanish and onomatopoeia. Lines like "Estoy candalabarar/Obligoing brightly" and "Limitless forsoothiay/Yo tengo muchas nada" are to be savored, like a bit of perfectly candied orange. Heaven's Gate dips and swells with a fine sea-faring melody and a buoyant attitude. It's an enjoyable and well-made piece of work which, alas, sorely needs the magic guitar touch of a Will Sergeant to bump it into the realm of greatness. Some of the lyrics:
"I'm taking what's rightfully mine
Not giving to you my skin and what's left of my mind
Are going with me, too"
need a little more sifting out as well. In My Head aims to be one of those magnificent churning, whirling, rollercoaster-in-a-waterslide Bunnymen epics, but it never gathers enough steam to spin or sparkle, and remains about as exciting as water running off the drain-board. "Things went 'round/In my head/I fell down", McCulloch sings. That happens to the best of us sometimes.
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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