Echo & The Bunnymen’s The Stars, The Oceans & The Moon

Chief Bunnymen McCulloch and Sergeant hop on some cool classics

The latest from Echo & The Bunnymen

In rock and roll, once your band has peaked or split up and gone their separate ways, it’s difficult put it back together and expect you’ll be at the same place where you left off.

Simply put, there are very few instances where a group’s going to be able to reclaim its former glories. Never mind all the outfits that boast one original member — if that — and hit the oldies circuit after slapping their trademark on the marquee. Many make a game attempt, but simply reviving the old handle isn’t any assurance of satisfaction.

Still nostalgia does possess a powerful pull. The promise of hearing a live jukebox full of venerable oldies is often enough of a lure to convince diehard devotees that it matters very little whether the original outfit is still intact.

Of course, there are some instances where the legacy is well served. Big Star, Van Halen, the Bangles and the Who are among those who made a game attempt at recreating the past, and while their recorded output might not have measured up to earlier triumphs in all cases, they didn’t embarrass themselves either. On the other hand, with the god awful Calling All Stations, Genesis proved to be a prime example of an ill attempt to replace a singer of significance and thinking that nobody would notice. We’re not talking about Phil Collins subbing for Peter Gabriel. It’s the person that replaced Collins — one Ray Wilson — that proved they way past their prime. Whatever happened to that guy anyway? And really, who cares?

Likewise, Queen without Freddie Mercury simply isn’t the same, no matter how much the band tries to convince otherwise. Paul Rodgers is damn good, but he’s no Freddie. And just because someone scores well on “American Idol” doesn’t mean Adam Lambert is ready for the big leagues.

Which brings us to a new offering from Echo and the Bunnymen, descriptively titled The Stars, The Oceans & The Moon. Never mind that singer Ian McCulloch appeared to be invested in a solo career before he and guitarist Will Sergeant decided to reconvene under the name Electrafixion. The return of bassist Les Pattinson offered legitimate reason for the trio to reclaim their original handle, Since then the reformed band has released half a dozen albums to modest success, although it’s debatable whether any are as potent as the earlier run of releases. One would be hard pressed to name any song by the current Bunnymen incarnation that measure up to such standards like “The Cutter,” “Ocean Rain,”  “The Killing Moon” and “Seven Seas.”

So what to do? One option would be to try to pen a song that could stand alongside the seminal material. Or, barring that possibility, simply rerecord the original classics. That’s the tack that the paired down duo of McCulloch and Sergeant took on the new album. Paring back the lush arrangements that graced the seminal songs, the duo opt for thoughtful, laid back, decidedly mellower takes on a baker’s dozen of their early standbys.

The result is interesting, even intriguing at times. And they’re decidedly different. Even so, it’s unlikely that they’ll ever substitute for the versions that are ingrained in the consciousness of the so-called new romantic mindset. Nevertheless, McCulloch is unapologetic. “I’m not doing this for anyone else,” he’s been quoted as saying. “I’m doing it as it’s important to me to make the songs better. I have to do it.”

That’s his right of course, and who are we to argue? Granted, “The Killing Moon” lacks its original killer croon, but any reason to revisit a killer tune is ample reason enough. At least for the fans.


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Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman is a writer and columnist based in beautiful Maryville Tennessee. Over the past 20 years, his work has appeared in dozens of leading music publications. He is also the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, which will be published by Texas A&M University Press early next year.

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