Echo & the Bunnymen - Meteorites

by Jim Harris Rating:6 Release Date:2014-06-02

You must give Ian McCulloch credit for trying. New songs from an old band who hit their heyday around the middle-80s, that’s good effort!  But unfortunately, Meteorites is too appropriate a title for this release. There is no brilliant shining streak here, but primarily the vestiges of what made Echo & the Bunnymen a seminal band some 35 years ago. 

With Meteorites, the listener is staring down into a smoldering hole where a meteorite landed. On this new release, McCulloch’s voice never brings a song to the level of ‘Lips Like Sugar’ or ‘Killing Moon’. The voice that orchestrated the droll, wonderful, droning ‘Bring on the Dancing Horses’ does not dominate any song as it did so much way back when. McCulloch, as he did on previous album The Fountain, sounds ever more like Chris Martin.

The image of Ocean Rain, on both literal and figurative levels, defined why this band had such an impact on the goth and electronic movement in the 80s. While The Cure was that giggly, dark gang of black-clad pop rockers, Echo & the Bunnymen were the stalwarts of the dark melancholy tune, the forlorn crooners of 80s alternative.

Perhaps it was lifestyle, life on the road, internal demons, whatever, but for McCulloch, the 90s up to now have left him simply without that same spark. While that same sort of atmosphere is hinted at in the track ‘Lovers on the Run’, the voice just doesn’t carry it to that same plateau. And while there are some interesting up-tempo tracks throughout the album, there doesn’t seem to be the same plodding rhythm section which made Will Sergeant’s guitar work so distinguishable. Yes, he’s an excellent 80s guitarist, with that smooth, shimmering, 80s sound, but then so is Neil Schon.

McCulloch has added much press about how Meteorites is edgy and going places he’s never gone before, etc. But there is nothing particularly edgy, or outstanding for that matter, about a track like the Eastern-influenced ‘Constantinople’ or the pseudo-operatic ‘Market Town’. They are not bad by any stretch, but not traveling in any new directions. Like virtually all the tracks on Meteorites, as on their previous release five years ago, Echo & the Bunnymen are doing rock and roll standards.

As for his painful throwing out of confessional demons on this one, he writes about how bad he was on tour, alcohol addictions, problems with his father, and now I’m thinking about God, the universe, and my mortality. (Outside of being bad on tour, unless you consider driving a semi-truck the equivalent, he pretty much sounds like 90 per cent of the people at the last Harris family reunion.)

Inevitably, Meteorites might be of some interest to the last vestiges of their hardcore fans, but this incarnation of the Bunnymen is a faint echo of what they used to be.

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