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Echo & The Bunnymen - 'The Stars, The Oceans & The Moon' Album Review


1. Bring On The Dancing Horses (Transformed)

2. The Somnambulist

3. Nothing Lasts Forever (Transformed)

4. Lips Like Sugar (Transformed)

5. Rescue (Transformed)

6. Rust (Transformed)

7. Angels & Devils (Transformed)

8. Bedbugs & Ballyhoo (Transformed)

9. Zimbo (Transformed)

10. Stars Are Stars (Transformed)

11. Seven Seas (Transformed)

12. Ocean Rain (Transformed)

13. The Cutter (Transformed)

14. How Far?

15. The Killing Moon (Transformed)

Echo & The Bunnymen are back with a new album on October 5th “The Stars, The Oceans & The Moon”, their first studio album since 2014’s “Meteorites”. The album sees the band revisit 13 of their previous songs to add ‘strings and things’, as well as including 2 new songs “The Somnambulist” and “How Far?”

Now I know what you’re thinking…revisit usually means reinterpreting – some crazed vanity project, where the vocals are slowed right down or each song is given its own kazoo solo ‘because, like, that’s how it was originally envisaged’ or some such nonsense. I am, however, pleased to inform you that the vocals are at normal speed and that the album remains, mercifully, kazoo free.

But this kind of album, where bands tinker with their back catalogue, does divide opinion; some people see it as breathing new life into the songs, while others see it as nothing short of heresy, where credibility is sacrificed for a top up of the pension fund. So, which one is it?

The album opens with 1985’s “Bring On The Dancing Horses” from ‘Pretty In Pink’ and wends it’s way through their discography four decades, taking in the likes of 1997’s “Nothing Lasts Forever”, the much under rated “Bedbugs And Ballyhoo” and the more obvious “Killing Moon” and “The Cutter”. Despite some initial fears, this is no crazed vanity project; there’s sensitivity and real care in the way the songs have been worked on. Some feel like they’ve been fleshed out a little more up than the originals (“Bring On The Dancing Horses” for example), while some have been stripped back – “Nothing Lasts Forever” now sounds more heartfelt and raw than the original ever did. Then there’s the piano and strings version of “Killing Moon”. To say it’s achingly beautiful is to woefully undersell it…it is amazing. I defy anyone to listen to it and not have the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. In amongst all the nostalgia there are, as mentioned previously, 2 new songs. “The Somnambulist” is the better of the two, as it feels more immediately Bunnymen but “How Far?” is a great song with nice chiming guitars. Crucially neither feels out of place in the company of the older songs, which tells you how good they are.

So, what to make of the album? Have they succeeded in Ian McCulloch’s aim ‘…to make the songs better’? This is a hard one to answer. Those of you who, like me, had their formative musical taste years in the 80’s will remember The Bunnymen as a shining light in amongst the dross of the early part of that decade. Those moments when songs like “The Cutter” and “Killing Moon” first elbowed their way into our consciousness, barging aside limp offerings from the likes of Laura Branigan, Black Lace and Phil Collins, stick in the memory and those songs, certainly for me, still resonate as strongly now as ever before. I’ve been flicking through the originals on my phone and comparing them to the new versions; they are different, sometimes brilliantly so, but are they better? That’s such a subjective thing – for first time listeners to the songs, then possibly the production will make them sound better than their previous incarnations, but for me the originals will always win out, purely because of the way they made me feel when I first heard them. But maybe that’s just me being a sentimental old sausage.

I realise that all the above navel gazing comes across as fence sitting, so let’s cut to the bit you all want answered.

Should you buy this album? Yes you should. If you’re new to the band then this is a brilliant introduction, and will hopefully inspire you to want to seek out the originals. If you’re already a fan, this is a necessary addition to your collection because it adds a new dimension to the songs you already love.

Review - Chris Watson

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