Echo & The Bunnymen – The Stars, The Oceans & The Moon
Echo & The Bunnymen return to their back catalogue on The Stars, The Oceans & The Moon to reinterpret songs and place the spotlight on different colours of familiar canvases
'I'm tired of the song sorrow sings,' goes Nothing Lasts Forever. The big question for Bunnymen driving force Ian McCulloch is: are the fans?
They're not the first and they won't be the last, but The Stars, The Oceans & The Moon is the one where Echo & The Bunnymen return to their back catalogue and reinterpret songs with "strings and things." It's not a full-on orchestral manoeuvre in Sefton Park, rather a set of recordings that place the spotlight on different colours of familiar canvases.
Sure, top 40 hits such as Bring On the Dancing Horses and Lips Like Sugar are really just lively (re)workouts of old favourites, but the stately piano and mournful strings of Rust, for example, complement McCulloch's weathered croon perfectly. When the horns arrive after the first chorus the song gains the gravitas McCulloch clearly believes it deserves. There lies the crux of The Stars, The Oceans & The Moon: it's McCulloch's reach for recognition.
"I’m not doing this for anyone else," he has said about the album. But the deliberation and delicacy afforded to the xylophone-led Nothing Lasts Forever and the still waters of Zimbo suggest a different story – this is McCulloch telling the world that his band's songs are alive, well and ready for a rebirth in different clothes. Has it worked? Well, Rust is gorgeous and (if you weren't around when it went top 20 in 1984 and have an open mind) Seven Seas is a revelation, with what sounds like Lou Reed's rhythm guitar sitting on a soft bed of widescreen noise. Ocean Rain too is all the better for a bit more space and a vocal that now sounds like it's coming up for air after nearly 35 years below the surface. The Cutter and Rescue both build on their VU-esque original templates, and as always Will Sergeant plays an understated blinder when asked, but it's hard to see many fans going back to these recordings instead of the originals after a curious first listen.
'Well here it is then, loneliness / So there's nothing to fear then, only this... ' goes rocking new song The Somnambulist (a cracker, by the way). It's a glimpse of the music McCulloch and co might be making all the time, if fate hadn't gone up against the singer's will.
Listen to: The Somnambulist, Rust, Ocean Rain