Echo and the Bunnymen, a band known for their soulful and chilling post punk/neo psychedelic rock are set to release their 11th studio album entitled “The Fountain” on Tuesday, November 10th. The album is the 12th studio album collaboration between the two remaining original members, singer Ian McCulloch and guitarist Will Seargent if you count their 1995 grunge collaboration, Electrafixion’s “Burned”. The album is a soaring return to form for the band, which has endured through band tensions, critical acclaim, commercial success, the replacement of their lead singer, complete disbandment, death, their reformation and a newfound renaissance. The band’s own history seems to echo, a pun very intended, singer Ian McCulloch’s fascination with the deaths and resurrections of the Bible that he so often references in his songs.
The band formed in Liverpool in 1978 with singer Ian McCulloch, Guitarist Will Sergeant, Bassist Les Pattinson and their drum machine Echo. By 1980, Peter DeFreitas had joined the group as the band’s permanent drummer. The Bunnymen released their aggressive debut “Crocodiles” in 1980 that was striking but showed their debt to bands like Joy Division. It wasn’t until their third album, 1983’s “Porcupine” that the group began to evolve past their post punk influence. A striking example of this was the use of a strange eastern sounding string instrument for the lead melody on their song “The Cutter” which reached the top 10 in the UK charts. The band’s next album, the critically acclaimed “Ocean Rain”, was bathed in lush string arrangements and imagination that gave way to their most recognized single “The Killing Moon.” Following this release, the band once again claimed the limelight with the track “Bring on the Dancing Horses” which was featured on the soundtrack to the John Hughes film “Pretty in Pink”. The band claimed one more hit single, “Lips Like Sugar” off of their self titled 1987 album which hit the #4 spot on UK charts and became a modest hit in America, before singer McCulloch departed for a solo career and was replaced by vocalist Noel Burke.
This new incarnation of Echo and the Bunnymen released one ill-fated album “Reverberation” before disbanding completely. To make matters worse, their former drummer Defrietas died in 1989 as a result of a motorcycle accident. Hopes for a reunited Echo and The Bunnymen sprang from the ashes when McCulloch began to work with Seargent again in 1994 under the name “Electrafixion”. In 1997 original bassist Pattinson joined the group again and they officially revived the mantle of Echo and the Bunnymen with the album “Evergreen” which featured another top 10 UK hit “Nothing Lasts Forever”. Since then, bassist Pattinson left, but the group has soldiered on and cut four new albums.
There must have been something in the water while The Bunnymen were writing their newest album because “The Fountain” is their most spirited and raw release since their original reformation in 1997. Their efforts on previous reformation albums, while well written and performed, seem sedate when played next to the frenetic energy of “The Fountain”. From the opening single “Think I Need it Too”, it’s clear we’re about to be overtaken by a tour de force of classic Echo and the Bunnymen sound. Seargent’s guitar soars, McCulloch’s vocals, while weathered by age, return with a force and fervor that we haven’t heard since their 80’s heyday, and strings and piano are peppered throughout to recall various eras of The Bunnymen’s sound. A criticism that can be made of the album is that the lyrics written by McCulloch often but not always build strongly in each song before giving way to an ambiguous repetitive chorus. Either way, it’s no accident that Echo and The Bunnymen’s latest album has been named “The Fountain”, McCulloch and company have found the essence of their sound once more and distilled it into their most exciting release in more than a decade. It’s no wonder McCulloch has claimed the album is “The best one we’ve made, aside from Ocean Rain.”