Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant serve up fancy but faithful renditions of some of their most cherished works for album number thirteen. Sam Lambeth reviews.
Echo & the Bunnymen have always been, for better or worse, ahead of the curve. During their initial and most celebrated run, where they went toe-to-toe with the likes of U2, they were hearing the ‘big music’ – think soaring strings and rumbling drums, not to mention the elasticity of Will Sergeant’s guitar chops and Ian McCulloch’s wounded howl. However, mass adulation always seemed slightly out of reach. Even when they reformed, in hindsight it pre-emptied the now fashionable wave of feted bands regrouping for fresh praise. Maybe with The Stars, The Oceans & The Moon, they are finally right on the money.
After all, other revered artists including Paul Simon are enjoying reanoinment by, well, anointing old classics. On their thirteenth studio album, the Bunnymen plough through their back catalogue and give old gems a fresh glisten. ‘The Killing Moon’ and ‘Ocean Rain’ were already brilliantly bombastic upon original release, but here they prove truly majestic, otherworldly and untouchable.
As always, McCulloch and Sergeant remain a lethal combination. Yes, years of debauchery and pomp have rendered Mac’s once-fragile warble a thing of the past. But his voice has now taken on an entirely new entity, a bruised baritone that can sound wistful, excited, brittle and beating. Sergeant, meanwhile, decorates new track ‘The Somnambulist’ and late-career classic ‘Rust’ with delicious coats of trembling tremolo and textural motifs.
It would have been nicer to hear new material from the Liverpool legends – they are capable, as autumnal touchstones Siberia and The Fountain prove – but a collection of classics rejigged with an orchestral flavour is always welcome. Echo & the Bunnymen continue to exist in a bright, celestial world of their own. Cherish them.