Echo and the Bunnymen - Ocean Rain (1984)
A surprising find among my dad's shelves, Ocean Rain is widely considered the pinnacle of Echo and the Bunnymen's recording career. I'm a bit embarrassed to confess this, but the only Bunnymen song that I was familiar with before I found this record was The Killing Moon (which, coincidentally bats sixth on this album). And I thought it was just a really catchy Smiths song. I know. I'm ashamed of this and my Matchbox 20 cds. But anyway...here that is:
[ mp3 ]: Echo and the Bunnymen - The Killing Moon
Ian McCulloch is the 'Echo' of Echo and the Bunnymen, and it's no surprise he counts David Bowie, Lou Reed, and Leonard Cohen among his influencers. His voice is an amalgam of the three...a baritone with seemingly built-in reverb. For me, his voice is the touchstone for the EATB sound, skating and sometimes soaring over lavishly constructed orchestrations that rival those of The Smiths and Roxy Music.
This album took multiple listens for me. It was not an instant hit...it struck me first as a bit too...dandy. The musical equivalent of a pink satin bow tie. Instead, the more I listened, the more the melodies creeped into my ear, grabbed on, and wouldn't let go. Like a Ceti Eel wrapping around my cochlea...but without Khan there to boss me around.
Take, for example, the dark and brooding dirge Nocturnal Me. Epic in every sense of the word, the song brings to mind the mad orchestrations of Pink Floyd's The Wall, while maintaining a strong sense of pop structure. It's like Morrisey in combat boots.
[ mp3 ]: Echo & the Bunnymen - Nocturnal Me
Ocean Rain isn't all gloom and doom. It has its light moments, if not lyrically than at least musically. Crystal Days is pure pop for now people...a new wave hit that brings to mind cocaine and asymmetrical haircuts. (Done ironically, of course.)
[ mp3 ]: Echo & the Bunnymen - Crystal Days
All in all, Ocean Rain is the perfect gateway into the world of Echo and the Bunnymen. I'm warning you though...like drugs, sex, Chinese buffets, Pringles, mochi, Apple products, Orbit gum, The Wire, The Wedding Singer, and making lists of things; once you start, it's hard to stop.