Record Review: Echo + The Bunnymen – New Live + Rare

WEA | Japan | CD | 1988 | WPCR-1892

WEA | Japan | CD | 1988 | WPCR-1892

Echo + The Bunnymen: New Live + Rare Japan CD [1988]

  1. People Are Strange
  2. The Killing Moon [All Night Version]
  3. All You Need Is Love
  4. Paint It Black [Live]
  5. Run, Run, Run [Live]
  6. Friction [Live]
  7. Do It Clean [Live]

Amazingly enough, this is the sole Echo + The Bunnymen release in the Record Cell! I actually own twice as many Electrafixion releases! It seems a little surprising in retrospect. Looking back, I tended to focus on the electronic groups at the expense of the guitars bands of this era. Having not really heard anything from the first two Bunnymen albums, it remained until I heard “The Cutter” before the E+TB receptors in my brain got the required stimulation. Even so, this is the one title I bought, and it was hardly cheap at the time, being a Japanese import CD. So why did I buy it?

Easy enough. It had the 12″ mix of the stellar single “The Killing Moon” on it, and that was enough for me. I may be dull, and a bit thick, but I know genius when I hear it! The crepuscular melodrama of the familiar 7″ mix has been injected with healthy doses of a real orchestra and Will Sargeant’s gypsy guitar adds barrelfulls of old world filigree to the warm, dark sound. When this song crosses the nine minute mark and leaves me wanting more, it can be said that the effort was well worth it! But what of the rest of this quasi album? From whence did it come?

echo + the bunnymen - seven seasUK7AThe 1984 single from “Ocean Rain” featured a long [6:40] cover version of The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love.” That seemed like a lot to cram onto the B-side of a 7″ single, but the song’s origins as part of Channel 4’s “Play At Home” music documentary series hint as to why it happened. I swear that the track is a straight mono dub from the broadcast videotape. All of the narration that was originally on the video production remains here, still. It sure sounds monophonic with headphone monitoring, but the long, shambolic cover incorporates Ian McCulloch riffing on songs as disparate as Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” and James Brown’s “Sex Machine” over the familiar loping groove.

echo+thebunnymen - thekillingmoonUK12AThe “Killing Moon” 12″ was represented here by the extended A-side and the live B-side featuring the band on an extended version of “Do It Clean” that like with their Beatles cover, Mac saw fit to incorporate bits of everything from The Cramps’ “Garbage Man” to Nat ‘King’ Cole’s “When I Fall In Love!” The only track left off from the 12″ version was the LP version of “The Killing Moon,” which was no big loss. After all, this was titled “New, Live + Rare.”

echo+the Bunnymen - peoplearestrangeUK12AThe previous two singles pilfered for this compilation were hardly new, though, by 1988. But this 12″ single was. A marketing genius at WEA saw fit to have the most Doors-influended Post-Punk band team up with Ray ‘Paycheck’ Manzarek to cover “People Are Strange” for the soundtrack of “The Lost Boys,” the Brat Pack vampire flick. The brief Doors tune has been inflated from a tight 2:10 to a relatively sprawling 3:58 on this single, and Mac sounds only a hair’s breadth apart from Jim Morrison on the final product. Manzarek got to call the shots in the studio, so he told himself to run with a nice organ solo in the middle eight that was certainly not in the brief original. I always liked Manzarek’s keyboard skills, so I cut him some slack here.

The rest of this 12″ are the Rolling Stones, Television and Velvet Underground covers, that together with the A-side by The Doors, comprise an incredibly succinct look at four powerful influences that came to bear on E+TB’s development. I really can’t think of any group not represented on these four cuts that might have also left a mark on Liverpool’s moodiest band. I always enjoy “New Live + Rare” when I spin it. I saw Echo + The Bunnymen live in 1988 when they were touring on their eponymous fifth album but apart from this release, never bit on any releases. I chastise flagellate myself for not having even a straight copy of “Ocean Rain” but I would probably require “Porcupine” as well at the very least. In a perfect world, I would have DLX RMs of the first four, just to give “Crocodiles” and “Heaven Up here” a proper airing and see what I’ve missed.

– 30 –

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12 Responses to Record Review: Echo + The Bunnymen – New Live + Rare

  1. Steve Shafer says:

    Yes, you really should have “Ocean Rain,” “Crocodiles,” and “Porcupine!” Also very much worth picking up is their four-CD box set “Crystal Days,” which introduced me to the essential B side “Angels and Devils” (which had been released on the “Silver” 7″ single back in the day). It baffles me why they didn’t include the very Byrds-like “Angels and Devils” on “Ocean Rain”–it’s one of their best tracks ever.

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  2. Taffy says:

    I’m not even the slightest bit objective here, as I own every single thing Ian McCulloch has sung on, and haven’t passed up an opportunity to see him live in 30 years! At the very least, I’d call the first five albums (I’m including their oft-criticized “grey” album, which I adore) fairly essential, especially in their stellar early 2000’s reissued format with lots of bonus goodies included. The post-reunion albums are a bit interchangeable to non-fanatics, but I’d single out 1999’s “What Are You Going To Do With Your Life?” as rather lovely and the best of the bunch. Favorite non-album song would be the post-punk disco perfection of “Never Stop.”
    And I’m in complete agreement regarding “The Killing Moon,” one of ten favorite songs of all time. It still gives me shivers every time I hear it, decades later.

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  3. zoo says:

    Heaven Up Here (and on the rare occasion, Ocean Rain) is the only one I’ll listen to all the way through. I like individual songs from other albums, but only HUH holds my attention from beginning to end.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Zoo – So many of the heavy hitters here are big fans, it shocks me to hear a voice of dissection. I did hear chasinvictoria’s copies of “Crocodiles” and “Heaven Up Here” back in the day, but they didn’t “stick” with me. Not like how I felt when I heard “The Cutter.” Now there was a song with a lot of Bowie in it.

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  4. JT says:

    You know, I bought Ocean Rain based on hearing Killing Moon in clubs and Seven Seas on MTV, both back in the 1980s. I played it only rarely for two decades, and then it suddenly clicked. Bought their first few albums just in the past few years, and I don’t know how I lived without them for three decades. My two cents…

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      JT – I hear you, pally. I suspect that this will also be my fate once I take the Echo + The Bunnymen plunge. I had a similar reaction to “A Kiss In The Dreamhouse” recently as you may remember. I bought it on its initial release, sold it off a few tears later. Got a cheap CD nearly 20 years later. Ignored it for six years then played it at the right time and Boom! How did I live without that album? But at least I have nearly a full set of Siouxsie + The Banshees albums. This is still my only Bunnymen release!

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  5. Echorich says:

    Ok, I have spent 2 days now figuring out how to contribute here…Monk you KNOW how much this band means to me and Ocean Rain IS THE GREATEST ALBUM OF ALL TIME. Post Punk meant guitars as much as it meant synths for me. If I look back at the weekly single/song and album chart I used to keep – yes I happily admit to this trainspotting act – for every OMD, Soft Cell and Blancmange single/song that made the chart there was a Bunnymen, Wah!, Comsat Angels, or Chameleons track competing for space.
    The Killing Moon – All Night Version is a tour de force of single remixing! Even when the song ends you have to admit it is still playing in your mind. This is Will Sargent’s moment to shine. He opens with one of the most ghoulish cord sequences ever. His guitars and effect burst forward ahead of the rhythm section and finally overcome McCulloch’s plaintive, emotional delivery. As all the other instruments fade away and drop out the listener is left with Sargent, who by now is on another planet playing his heart out finally realizing he’s alone in the studio with nothing but the strings back track and the song ends.
    The Bunnymen may have loved Liverpool more than any other band that has come from that city – yes, I said ANY other band. When they wanted to celebrate the release of Ocean Rain, they created a Crystal Day event around the city ending with a concert by the band that night. The Play At Home documentary showed a very Scouse band proud of the big and small in the city and their fans. I love the forced “Love In” attitude of All You Need Is Love and I think all the BBC “stuff” included in the track was very much on purpose to give it that live at the scene/60’s feel.
    McCulloch has always taken his audience on a journey live, filing Bunnymen tracks with the likes of Doors, James Brown, Cramps and Nat King Cole. One of the highlights of EVERY concert I’ve ever seen the band perform is Do It Clean. McCulloch seems to go into a frentic trance midway through the song channeling those artist and sometimes mixing it up with songs you wouldn’t have imagined. When he gets to When I Fall In Love he takes a quiet love song and sends it soaring into a punk anthem.
    Monk, I really look forward to the day when you purchase or are gifted Crocodiles, Heaven Up Here, Porcupine and Ocean Rain. They are tremendous albums by the band, I feel, had the most potential to influence and effect Rock & Roll in their era. That they never really impact they should have is not a problem with the music and what was behind it is a discussion for another time.

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  6. chas_m says:

    I concur with much of the comments above, but I am both the early riser on this stuff and the heretic, for I also love the album which dare not speak its name, the Mac-less Reverberation, where Sargent explored the psychedelic side of the band more deeply. Love that stuff, even where most of the work of the most obvious influence, The Doors, leaves me indifferent. (shrug)

    They’ve done some great stuff since reforming as well — I was very impressed with The Fountain, their most recent LP, but it’s clear the days of full-work, consistently great albums are behind them. But that’s okay.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      chas_m – Thanks for reminding me of that album. I remember seeing it in the bins at the time and thinking “that looks like a Me Company sleeve!” Having looked to it in detail after you mentioned it, I see that they sprang for a cimbalom player, lending credence to my thinking that there is cimbalom on “The Killing Moon” and that wasn’t effected guitar I was hearing. This was obviously a band with attention to detail.

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    • Echorich says:

      Chas, I give Reverberation it’s due, and the fact that there was a Mac solo album out at the time of the quality of Candleland. I got to see McCulloch on tour in the US and at Kilburn National in London in 1989 and he was on fire. I did enjoy the Mac-less Bunnymen for what they presented. There was never going to be a real replacement for McCulloch’s vocals and Noel Burke didn’t really attempt to be Mac – who could create the same Morrison/Bowie/Cohen sound that Mac had developed over 11 years?
      The fact is, Reverberation is Will Sargent’s baby and it fits right in with his love of psychedelic, effects laden rock. It’s the closest the band got to an art rock album in some ways too.
      I have to agree with Monk on Electrfixion…there is a real intensity and strength of purpose in what Mac and Will attempted over and album and EP in the midst of Britpop (Britpoop) and post grunge. The Bunnymen were the band most of those artists grew up on and and the Gallagher Bros, Cobain and others were very vocal on that.
      That the second Electrifixion album turned into Echo And The Bunnymen’s “comeback” album Evergreen is evident in the grimey psychedelic nature of a few of the tracks like Altamont and Empire State Halo. Some tracks, like Baseball Bill and Just A Touch Away were even performed by Electrifixion on their last series of shows before they rung up bassist Les Pattison and got EATB back on it’s feet. At the same time Evergreen touches back to a number of motifs found on Porcupine and Ocean Rain and is really a very dramatic album made by men very much aware of their second chance as they are entering middle age. There are no teen love throwaway songs here, but there IS a lot of reflection and reaction to life lived.

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      • Echorich says:

        Wow I really have to re-read before hitting post…that first sentence should have ended – …of the quality of Candleland, made me more openminded Bunnymen Mk. 2.

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