Echo & The Bunnymen Ocean Rain Reissue
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Ocean Rain was the Bunnymen’s 4th album in five years and marked a change in direction for the band. Echoes of the bands’ previous work are still present, from Les Pattinson’s circular bass riffs, Will Sergeant’s off-kilter guitar patterns, Pete de Freitas’ intricate drumming and Ian McCulloch’s huge voice and doggerel lyrical voice. It’s just that on this album it all coalesced into something a little more classic, a little softer and melodic. The huge sweeping nature of songs like “The Cutter” and “Back of Love” from their previous album, Porcupine, had been replaced by something a little more lush, a little more planned. Previous Ocean Rain albums were often the result of jam sessions in the studio rather than meticulously demoed records. Ocean Rain feels more thought out with some more light and romance sneaking into the soundscape. Whether the recording of the songs in Paris has leaked through into the sound or not, it is a fuller sounding record than anything they had recorded before. Strings are more prominent, xylophones and glockenspiels are featured, and acoustic guitars are used instead of electrics. The album centers around the song that has almost become the Bunnymen calling card, “The Killing Moon,” apparently something that came to McCulloch in a dream. It was the first track to be recorded for the album and was actually all recorded in the UK. It’s been featured in the Donnie Darko soundtrack, covered by Pavement and still it survives. It’s a beautiful piece of work, a consummate bit of songwriting from the low rumbling bass, the brushed drums and the riff that runs through it, all with McCulloch’s soaring vocals over the top as he sings about lips being “magic whirls, and the sky over hung with jewels.” This is one of those songs that a band records and will just know that they will have to Play it at every performance. It’s a rare classic song that can even stand the Nouvelle Vague treatment. The album Starts brightly with a strummed guitar and the epic strings of “Silver,” as McCulloch sings, ”Swung from a chandelier.” That pretty much sets the scene for the album, and it’s a classy affair that soars and swoops from the get go. Everybody involved is at the top of their game. Sergeant’s guitar lines ring clear and cleanly through this song, and the multi-tracked lah-lahs that run throughout fit the bill perfectly. This is an album that sets its stall out early and Continues to deliver for each of its nine tracks. These can be divided into two types of songs; the melody-rich and poppier songs like “Silver” and “Seven Seas,” and the slower, epic tracks like “The Killing Moon,” and “Nocturnal Me.” In between these songs are tracks like the freak out, skittering drums of “Thorn of Crowns,” originally known as “Cucumber” (you know they made imaginative demos). This is possibly the only song to ever make a good chorus out of the phrase “C-c-c-c-Cucumber, cauliflower, cabbage” and should therefore mark this out as special in its own right. The album closes on the majestic title track. It starts with low, simple bass and Sergeant’s guitar appearing through the fog, as McCulloch sings “All at sea again, and now my hurricanes have brought down this ocean rain to bathe me again.” in a lugubrious croak worthy of a whale. Slowly but surely, other instruments arrive on the waves of this magnificent song – the strings, the brushed drums, an insistent riff as it builds to a crescendo that you know is coming for a good minute or two before it arrives. McCulloch’s voice cuts loose and you are swept along on the crest of a wave, a tidal swell, and perfect storm all rolled into one artistic rare beauty. Many bands would be lucky to record a single song as good as this. The Bunnymen managed to fit nine pearls onto one record without appearing to break a sweat. It’s hard to pick out highlights here. Ocean Rain is an album of nine Winners. Each song is in exactly the right place; not a note is out of place, not a line feels forced or awkward. It’s a rare thing for this to happen, but the Bunnymen achieved it on Ocean Rain, and perhaps that made what followed so depressing. This is an album that has been remastered and re-issued once or twice (quite worthy), so it’s unlikely that Gil Norton’s production will be improved on any further, and to be fair why would you want to mess around with a man that produced the Pixies, James, Throwing Muses and Foo Fighters amongst others?