The best way to end a year is to learn about next year’s plans of favourite bands, because even though other things that need to be done within the year might require a lot of effort, making time for listening to a new release or attend a gig, will always be an invigorating thing. These kind of news make me think ‘alright I might have to go through this and that hard thing next year but in the meantime there are exciting things to experience in the upcoming gigs!’.

“I’m not doing this for anyone else. I’m doing it as it’s important to me to make the songs better. I have to do it.” (Ian McCulloch)

One of the first big news that circulated towards the end of 2017 was the release of a new album and the beginning of a new tour by Echo and The Bunnymen who are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year! It has been four years since the release of ‘Meteorites‘ an album produced by Martin Youth (Killing Joke) who has co-written (with Ian McCulloch) three of its songs and has also played bass in the album. The sound of this album is closer stylistically to the one that the band has evolved after its reformation. It is much more rock in aesthetics than the first albums of the band, (the guitar riffs and the drums that have a harsher character are evidence of this change of style), it has stronger soul references (e.g. “Is This  Breakdown”), no cello or wind instruments. Our wait will be over in May 2018 though, as Echo and The Bunnymen will release their new album entitled ‘The Stars, The Oceans and The Moons‘. According to a statement the band has made online, this album “…will feature Bunnymen classics transformed and new songs with strings and things attached…” and will be co-produced by Andy Wright, which makes us think that its sound will be quite different from ‘Meteorites’. This release which will happen through BMG a label with which the band signed during summer 2017, will be followed by a special appearance at Royal Albert Hall in June 2018.

A few words about the past because we like to put things into perspective

Echo and The Bunnymen were formed after the band named ‘A Shallow Madness’ was transformed into ‘The Teardrop Explodes’ with the departure of Ian McCulloch. Echo and the Bunnymen then opened for a gig of ‘The Teardrop Explodes’ in 1978 before releasing their debut album ‘Crocodiles‘ in 1980. Apart from the period of their split (1993-1997), they have been consistently releasing albums every few years ever since. This is a band whose music, especially in the first 5 albums, contains within its melodies and lyrics, the poetry created when people live in hardship but their hearts and minds can look beyond that in very creative ways. This is not an attempt to fetishize the past and its harshness on people’s lives but it is important to acknowledge the value of albums such as ‘Heaven Up Here‘, ‘Ocean Rain‘ and the composition of songs like “Porcupine”, “Lips Like Sugar”, “The Killing Moon” during a time when social conditions were doing everything in their power to hinder creativity. Many bands that were formed much later, including Coldplay and The Killers have also named Echo and The Bunnymen as their major influence.

But I had a vision of unearthly beauty, and that is why I was able to live at all. Liverpool is the ‘pool of life’. The ‘liver’, according to an old view, is the seat of life, that which makes to live. (Karl Jung)

Liverpool in the 1980s, the period when Echo and The Bunnymen were formed, was not a particularly inspiring place to live in, considering the increased unemployment and the overall tense social atmosphere. That time, was probably the worst moment someone could pick in order to talk poetically about certain things but the perfect time to talk assertively about change.

“You said something will change
We were all dressed up
Somewhere to go
No sign of rain
But something will change
You promised…”
(lyrics from “A Promise”)

Liverpool was a musical town and why wouldn’t it be? It was a port, a place of travel throughout its history. It was because of its strategic role and position, that the city was heavily bombarded during WWII. During the end of the 70s, things might have been dire there but many people were forming bands. The city had already been establishing a rhythm, a tune during the previous decades. There was even a popular hangout place for artists, the notorious ‘Armadillo Tea Rooms‘ which had a Carl Jung bust at a recess in one of its external walls, that was vandalized many times. A similar ‘musical’ story was being ‘written’ in Manchester. Two cities ‘rivalling’ through music are now rivalling through architecture and regeneration plans. How times change!

Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful and everything conceals something else…(Italo Calvino,book: ‘Invisible Cities’)

Attempting to establish whether the sound of Echo and The Bunnymen was the opposite of the sound that was described by the term ‘Merseybeat’ (this term actually described music which had geographical characteristics more than anything as it referred to bands from and around Liverpool) or rather the lyrical answer to conditions of social injustice, might prove to be futile. Would the sound of this band be different if its members had not been living in Liverpool? We cannot really know the answer to any of these questions. We might as well agree with the phrase that we heard in one of the five plays of Tenzing Scott Brown a.k.a Bill Drummond that have been adapted for the radio by Johny Brown (The Band Of Holy Joy) and the BAD PUNK team and were presented in Resonance FM in 2017: “It was just a time where things happened there was an atmosphere and then it stopped there was no story…”. Bill Drummond, a multifarious and often provocative artist, was the manager of Echo and The Bunnymen at the beginning of their career and he produced their debut 7″ single entitled ‘The Pictures On My Wall’, their album ‘Crocodiles’ and the mini live LP ‘Echo and The Bunnymen’ under the name ‘The Chameleons’.

Having said all that, it is important to distinguish between a band that passes total control to a producer and a band that is involved in the production and creation of its own image and sound from the beginning. Echo and The Bunnymen have always belonged to the second category as they have always been involved in the production of their albums, the creation of their sound and the choice of visuals.

“We started out with a drum machine. That was just me. I was a massive Kraftwerk and Eno fan and Cluster and all that kind of stuff. Anything that took your mind somewhere else…”(Will Sergeant, extract from an interview)

The qualities we love in Echo and the Bunnymen are the richness of rhythms, the melodies, the lyrics, Ian’s lyrical voice and the way the band has created space for experimentation with injections of garage and psychedelia through the guitar riffs and the vocals, the (at times) tribal drum rhythms and the more grounding but playful bass lines. The vocals have always represented the relieved feeling someone has while shouting from the top of a mountain.

“The moment your main objective becomes pleasing people, you’re finished I think… I think that music should be about magic and not about entertaining, satisfying someone on small terms, I think it should be a bigger thing…” (Ian McCulloch, extract from an interview 1983)

The last time the band played live in London was in 2014 at O2 Shepherd’s Bush and before that in 2011, while more recently they toured in the US co-headlining with Violent Femmes, and made some live appearances in Liverpool, Norway and Geneva (La Bâtie Festival). In 2018 the band will make a UK tour following the release of their new album and this tour will include a stop to London. We cannot wait enough for the months to pass until June 1st, when Echo and The Bunnymen will appear live on stage at Royal Albert Hall. This show is almost sold out but you can preorder the album here:

Blaue Rosen box



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