October 1, 2018 Echo & the Bunnymen – The Stars, the Oceans & the Moon (Album Review)
Hands down, Echo & the Bunnymen are one of the enduring pioneers and flag bearers of the so-loved Post-Punk New Wave music, which originated in the late 1970s. They belong up there in the annals of the genre, alongside equally indomitable outfits such as The Cure (The Head on the Door), U2 (The Joshua Tree), Simple Minds (Once upon a Time), Depeche Mode (Black Celebration), and Duran Duran (Rio), all of which soldiered on releasing album after album amid the ever-changing musical landscapes. That is why every time The Bunnymen have something new in store, fans are ready to stand in queue to get a hold of it.
Formed in 1978, in Liverpool, England, Echo & the Bunnymen has released twelve studio albums under its name—from 1980’s Crocodiles to 2014’s Meteorites. Now, Ian McCulloch (vocals, guitar) and Will Sergeant (guitar)—the remaining founders/official members of the band—are set to unleash their most-awaited new album. Albeit comprised mostly by re-recording of past classics, it is a breath of freshness and familiarity from Echo & the Bunnymen.
Scheduled for release on Friday, October 5, 2018 on BMG Records, The Bunnymen’s thirteenth, titled The Stars, the Oceans & the Moon, starts with a more driving and organic “Bring On the Dancing Horses” – an apt opener, immediately setting the mood of the listener. This is followed by a new song, “The Somnambulist,” which bears the jangly and shimmering guitar sparks and beautiful string orchestration trademark Bunnymen songs are best known for. A slower, starry-eyed, graceful, and more melodic version of “Nothing Lasts Forever” then plays next, fitting McCulloch’s aged, grainy voice better.
The ubiquitous “Lips like Sugar” is then given a more live feel, but—good thing—all the necessary melodies are retained; in fact, the fan favorite track has become even more playful and tuneful in this new rendition. The next track might, however, come as a surprise to many longtime fans of the band—“Rescue” here is less abrasive and frenetic; the angst of old and Post-Punk sensibilities have been replaced with cool and swagger. Then there is “Rust,” from The Bunnymen’s contemplative moments in the late ’90s; still the same ballad, but much of whose guitar elements have been replaced with the piano, horns, and strings; McCulloch is indeed in a more relaxed state nowadays. However, “Angels and Devils” comes surging next like a cascading wave of barrels, as if the spirit of the late Pete de Freitas has possessed whoever was playing the drums in this track.
Another change of style is evident in the new approach to “Bedbugs and Ballyhoo,” which has somehow lost a bit of its quirkiness, big-sound appeal, angularity, and youthful exuberance. Well, what could one expect? The Bunnymen are long past their innocent and experimental days, after all. Next is another reorientation, as McCulloch and Sergeant launch into a somber, more laid-back, and almost acoustic-Psychedelic take on “Zimbo,” one of their vintage vignettes from 1981. Still in slow mode, the originally driven “Stars Are Stars” follows in a similarly languid predisposition – as if sailing like a Gothic lullaby on an ocean of rains, if that makes sense.
Practically an acoustic and stripped-down version of “Seven Seas” then slowly ensues, coming across like a Gospel ballad – so serene, assured, and comforting, aptly giving way to an even, melancholic sway of “Ocean Rain.”
After a slew of rustic New Romantic balladry, The Bunnymen are back to their Post-Punk feet as they tackle next an almost untouched delivery of “The Cutter.” Before finishing off their latest offering, appropriately, with a piano-led “The Killing Moon,” McCulloch and Sergeant dish out the second of the two new songs in this album that they have gifted their followers with, “How Far?”
Yes, how far indeed have The Bunnymen come so far, from their late ’70s beginnings? Let us see. From 1978 to 2018, that is 40 years; 13 studio albums, 30 singles, many of which chart-topping; and most importantly, an iconic name in the Alternative music scene, and a very influential one at that. Well, Echo & the Bunnymen is, after all, still Echo & the Bunnymen—one of the greatest bands in the world! They are about to shine again so hard with another batch of compelling songs packaged in an album that is worth adding into one’s record collection. What then are you going to do with your life right now? What else, but to wait until you can lay your hands and ears on Echo & the Bunnymen’s forthcoming celestial piece. CrypticRock gives The Stars, the Oceans & the Moon 4 out of 5 stars.