Echo and the Bunnymen – ‘Ocean Rain’ and ‘The Idolness of Gods’ – Round 8: Graham’s choice

Will keep it brief as it is so late as a result of a little technical difficulty and a lot of laziness!

Initiation ceremony over, I humbly unveiled my first offerings to veteran members. Having been drawn to the Bunnymen by the successful singles from their 3rd album, “Porcupine”, I invested in “Ocean Rain”.

At the time it received many plays, though I’m not sure it was truly appreciated until many years later. Compared to the offerings from similar bands on the verge of “big time”, this was not what I was expecting.

As for the band’s own claims at the time that it was the “greatest album ever”, this probably did more to lead to the album not being given the full credit it deserved. However, aside from a few “Doorsish” departures on “Thorn of Crowns” and “Yo-Yo Man”, it still sounds fresh, interesting and highly original to me. A combination of “pop”, drama and lush playing and lyrics fills the majority of the album. “My ship’s a sail, can you hear its tender frame, screaming from beneath the waves?”, being a personal favourite from “Seven Seas”.

The album is again being toured in its entirety some 27 years later, so maybe it is finally receiving a more rounded level of appreciation as Ian McCulloch’s witticisms mellow (very slowly) with age. On that note, my follow up track, some 26 years later, was “the idolness of Gods”, from 2011’s “The Fountain”.

This album was remarkably bright, breezy and “poppy” for a band in their early fifties, much to do with the production from John McLaughlin (see Busted, 911, Five etc!). Nestling at the end of the album was this track which harks back to earlier days. But with the title of the track you could imagine that “Mac the Mouth”, is sending a message out to young pretenders to his crown!

Enjoyed both Spoon and Arab Strap, and inclined to listen again to more of their output. Apologies to Tom, however Pere Ubu still leaves me a little cold. I tried hard to like them when the NME was telling me to back in the 80’s, but I’m yet to get on board.

Tom Listened:  Back in the day I railed against most of the music my peers were listening to often, admittedly, without giving the music a chance. At the time I was determined to dislike The Smiths, Bruce Springsteen, Prince and The Dead Kennedys simply on the grounds that they were commonly played on the 6th form Common Room stereo by OTHER people (Half-Man Half-Biscuit were the exception…EVERYONE liked them!). Sometimes disliking these bands took real effort as, despite myself, I found myself enjoying some of their songs (although, obviously, never admitting it to anyone else). However, I was always relieved that my dislike of U2 and Echo and the Bunnymen was never seriously tested. Even if they had produced the most amazing music I’d ever heard (‘the greatest album ever made’!?!), Bono and McCulloch’s huge egos and seemingly bottomless reserves of self-importance ensured that my resolve was never remotely tested. They were just so easy to dislike.

Perhaps this was my loss. New Year 2011. I put together a music quiz to bore/terrorise my friends with and whilst looking for suitable fodder from the Pitchfork 500 collection, I’ll be damned, The Killing Moon sounded incredible. Sharp and clear on modern, expensive equipment, melodic and timeless, it revealed itself to me at last for what it really was – a fine example of 80s pop, all the better, perhaps, for being freed from its context and distanced from its creator’s bleatings. So I was keen to hear Ocean Rain by the time Graham announced his choice to us.

The album, to me, hasn’t fared as well as The Killing Moon. I sensed that it was a grower and that it would take more than one listen to be able to judge it properly, but some of the tracks seemed on first listen to be a little dated and, unsurprisingly, pretentious. That said, I would certainly welcome the chance to get to know it better and see whether my middle aged self is able to see past what my teenage self couldn’t!

Nick listened: I know Ocean Rain well and like it a lot; I’ve been down in the Cornish cave where the sleeve photo was taken, holding a piece of string tethered to a rickety dinghy in that subterranean pool, the guitarist of a band perched, petrified, in the dinghy, camera pointed at him and being asked questions. Daft. So is the record; c-c-c-cumber, c-c-c-cauliflower, etc etc. It’s the daftness, allied with the grace and delicacy, that makes McCulloch’s rampant twatness stomach-able on this record, but not really on any others. Because whilst I like little bits and bobs of other Bunnymen records, the occasional song or two, none of them approach this; at times magisterial, grand, and ornery, but also aware of its own silliness.

The more modern single I didn’t like one bit, though, I’m afraid; it seemed the type of stodgy, staid, unimaginative post-Coldplay dadrock that I feared the Bunnymen would be making in 2009, with none of the sparkle, space, or strangeness of Ocean Rain.


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