Review : Echo and the Bunnymen - The Fountain
PitchforkEcho and the Bunnymen have now released as many studio albums since their reunion as the original quartet did during its run in the 1980s. Comparing the two careers directly probably isn't fair-- after all, it was the same quartet of Ian McCulloch, Will Sergeant, Les Pattinson, and Pete de Freitas that made those first five albums, whereas the reunion version never had de Freitas (he died in a motorcycle accident in 1989) and lost Pattinson after one album. Anyone who thinks bassists and drummers aren't important to the sound of a rock band could take a lesson there, as not having their old rhythm section has clearly made a difference.
Of course, age has too. Whether they were trying to keep up with the Britpop kids (1997's Evergreen), acting their middle age (1999's What Are You Going to Do With Your Life?), returning to their post-punk roots (2001's Flowers), or hitting the autopilot (2005's Siberia), it was always clear that the Bunnymen's second life was (no pun) a mere echo of their first. That autopilot they engaged on Siberia is still pretty well punched on The Fountain. McCulloch's always going to be a great singer, and Sergeant's always going to be a great guitarist with his own style, but the two have reached a point here where they seem to be cranking out these second-generation Bunnymen tunes in the way a Toyota Corolla factory cranks out cars. It's efficient and the quality is solid, but it's not that exciting either.
You do get a few aces, chief among them lead track and single "I Think I Need It Too", which has the classic sonorous McCulloch vocal, some liquid guitar leads from Sergeant, and a big, pumping chorus. "Proxy" is a pleasant surprise, going outside the band's usual box to scare up a piano-driven pop tune with breathy "whoa-oh-oh" backing vocals-- it's infectiously happy, not something you can say about many songs by this band, and if I were choosing, it'd be the next single. A good portion of the rest of the album basically photocopies "I Think I Need It Too", mining the same general sound for less return. "Do You Know Who I Am?" pairs a guitar part so melodically slight it makes little impression with a verse vocal consisting entirely of two-word phrases matching verbs with the word "it." The title track and "Shroud of Turin" are rote mid-tempo Bunnymen....full text
GuardianPerforming their classic album Ocean Rain last year and acquiring a new rhythm section and producer (Busted man John McLaughlin) seems to have rejuvenated the Bunnymen. Their most accessible offering in a long time sees Ian McCulloch at his most lyrically playful and cocksure, hovering between confessional ("I cried a fountain dry") and mischievous, and firing off one-liners as if it were the band's 80s heyday. Will Sergeant's guitar-playing is at its scintillating best, although it is piano that backs the album's most enduring moment, the tearily anthemic The Idolness of Gods. There's nothing as brooding as The Killing Moon, nor as weird as Turquoise Days – but their poppiest tunes since Bring On the Dancing Horses could win the Scouse veterans a new generation of fans....full text
BbcThe Echo & the Bunnymen of the past decade may bear little similarity, beyond the presence of Ian McCulloch’s vocals and Will Sergeant on guitar, to the band that courted such acclaim with their first four albums – Crocodiles (1980), Heaven Up Here (1981), Porcupine (1983) and Ocean Rain (1984) – but line-up changes haven’t prevented the post-punk outfit from scoring critical hits. Their first record without founding bassist Les Pattinson, 1999’s What Are You Going to Do With Your Life?, picked up a 9/10 in the NME, and broadsheets took to 2005’s Siberia with all the enthusiasm that greeted their first wave of releases.
But while Siberia did an admirable job of conjuring a spirit comparable to the Liverpool band’s finest 1980s releases – it’s a closer cousin of Crocodiles than, say, the band’s 1997 reunion affair, Evergreen – The Fountain aims for an awkward middle ground between styles, failing to perfect that itchiness that made the Bunnymen so irresistible in their early days while also falling short in the Big Indie Anthem stakes. There’s no Nothing Lasts Forever here, however hard they’ve tried, and not even the presence of Coldplay’s Chris Martin on the title track can stir anything more than moderate interest....full text
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