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.

mp3: Echo & The Bunnymen – Zimbo (transformed)
mp3: Echo & The Bunnymen – The Killing Moon (transformed)

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.


12 thoughts on “A VERY MIXED BAG

  1. well done for making it through the whole album, I barely made it to the half way stage

  2. Not going to go there. Crocodiles to Porcupine was the Bunnymen’s imperial phase. Ocean Rain was decent but they should have reined in some of the lush strings and left in some more discordant elements. All got a bit Mantovani for my tastes. Diminishing returns and self-parody set in sharply after that. They are still playing live, but have no desire to tarnish my memories of the brilliance of the shows I saw as an enthralled teen in the early 80s.

  3. Same thoughts here. Mates are getting excited about them coming to Bristol but Mac’s voice left him a long time ago and was last seen floating down the Mersey..

  4. I have to say, one of the new tracks – The Somnambulist – is just superb and was one of my favourite tracks of the year. It proved to me that they still have it in them to make great music, a shame they decided to remake old songs badly.

  5. I generally agree with @chaval, and tend to leave my memories of favorite bands from my teen years intact. But when my kids got old enough we’d sometimes go these “legacy” groups so my kids could see what I was always banging on about. Often the bands were great: Buzzcocks, Madness, Specials, Squeeze, Stray Cats, and Public Image all put on great shows. But the two absolute worst were among my absolute favorites back in the day–the Bunnymen and Gang of Four. Ian sounded bad and insulted the crowd. Gang of Four were embarrassing. The remade versions posted today are so off that I can only imagine how sorry the rest of the LP is.

  6. I regretted buying this when it was released but since then I’ve found myself listening to The Somnambulist a lot. If only there was entire album of that quality. I live in hope – sort of.

  7. I saw the Bunnymen at Brum Symphony Hall in the lead up to this album being released, and to my relief the gig was instead largely an excellent Echo and the chamber orchestra strings. They were meant to be playing at a festival this summer I attended but were replaced by Ash / Wedding Present / Happy Mondays which I was able to forgive.

  8. So, I own The Stars, The Oceans And The Moon. It’s signed by Ian and Will. I have not played it. I likely won’t play it. Nothing here has dissuaded me from that intent. Having seen The Bunnymen with Orchestra at Radio City on the Ocean Rain Tour a few years – god was it 7? – ago. That was more than enough reinterpretation for me.

  9. Only just got this a few weeks ago – saw it at a reasonable price in HMV so caved into my desire for bunnycompleteness. It’s essentially a McCulloch solo album covering the Bunnymen with guest Will Sergeant (although that’s perhaps a description of all recent Bunnylps). It has no other point other than to extract some more cash from this group of songs. Should have been left as a single with the new songs!

    First time I listened to it in Spotify I couldn’t do more than the first side. Thought it was a bit better second time around but musically it’s just pointless. Nothing surpasses the originals and in some cases these versions are travesties.

    Interestingly I totally disagree on what the better songs on it are – The Killing Moon was the lead single and it’s sacrilegious – Will’s not even on it according to the sleeve. Other crimes against Bunnymanity include Rust and Stars are Stars. The songwriting credits have been tampered with too – now all the songs are lyrics McCulloch, compositions by …

    I presume Will must get something out of the Bunnymen still being a thing but it’s difficult to imagine that much of it is creative.

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