It was just over three years ago that Echo & The Bunnymen released The Stars, The Oceans & The Moon. The idea, apart from two completely new songs, was to re-record and re-imagine some of their best-known older material, primarily leaning on strings, synths and orchestration. The reviews weren’t that great, and so I gave it a body swerve.
It has stayed that way until a few weeks ago when I, ahem, acquired, a digital copy of the album.
I’ll try and be a bit positive by saying that a couple of the new versions are interesting, if a bit clichéd, almost as if they’ve been done with one eye on being picked up by the folk compiling the soundtrack to a Hollywood movie or as mood music as the credits roll on the latest episode of a ‘must-see’ TV series.
Overall, however, the album is a real letdown, not only failing to add anything genuinely appealing to some great songs but going beyond that and somehow making something that was previously good become something that borders on the criminal.
The opening notes of album opener Bring On The Dancing Horses sound as if it’s about to be sung by John Shuttleworth.
Lips Like Sugar is like a version you’d find on an old Top of The Pops budget album where the session musicians came in for the original players. Well, that was my view on first hearing….later listens made me think it was Coldplay covering the Bunnymen.
And please, just spare us The Cutter. It’s an absolute shocker, with all the originality replaced by a pub band.
Two songs do save it from being thrown into the recycle bin.
I give the former pass marks for the fact that they take a song which had been a tour de force thanks to the drumming of the late Pete de Freitas, and strip it back to not much more than a vocal and electric guitar/piano. It’s something which many bands, such as Arab Strap and The Twilight Sad, do very well in the live environment, and Zimbo is one that I’d very much like to hear done that way in an intimate environment.
The Killing Moon is such an epic song that the only way it could have been transformed was in a totally stripped back way. It does suffer from Mac’s voice no longer being the powerful tool it was in the mid 80s. And yes, it has that soundtrack feel to it, but pop and rock stars have got to make a crust in any way possible these days. But despite all this, it is one that I’ve been able to listen to on repeated occasions without hitting any fast-forward buttons.
I make no apologies for not offering you the opportunity to listen today to some of the ones that I think stink the place out. You’re all smart enough to go digging elsewhere and find them for yourselves.