Record Review: Echo + The Bunnymen – Ocean Rain DLX RM UK CD [pt. 1]

It’s been 39 years in the waiting, but this year, I finally acted on my reasonably strong desire to buy Echo + The Bunnymen’s fourth album, “Ocean Rain.” Such as I’ve wanted a copy since its release in 1984! I will admit that I never really had a handle on the first two Bunnymen albums. At most I heard a tape that chasinvictoria made for me in 1980-1981. I hadn’t heard the records any other way back then. No college radio play or music videos.

But by 1983, I would occasionally see the stirring video for “The Cutter” or the string laden “Never Stop” on rare MTV showings, and I was definitely down with Echo + the Bunnymen by then, but to this day I only ever bought the JPN CD of “New Live + Rare.” Partially because it was rare Japanese goods and thus transitory on the marketplace, but mostly because it had the sumptuous nearly ten minute version of “The Killing Moon” on it! I had always assumed that there was a lot more where that came from on the “Ocean Rain” album, and the other video I caught on MTV for “Seven Seas” was another convincer.

[insert 39 year span here…]

The notion has been for over a decade to get the WEA 2xCD DLX RM of the album which was released in 2008, with a 2nd disc having the 1983 Royal Albert Hall concert where the “Never Stop” video was excerpted from. But when have I ever seen a copy? I was bin browsing at Time Traveler in February and I saw a heretofore unknown single disc DLX RM packed with material, and there’s something to be said for proximity. I snatched it up with nary a thought. It featured the album plus all of the B-side material from the two singles with them, plus three previously unreleased tracks.

Warner Special Markets | UK | CD | 2003 | 2564-61165-2

Echo + The Bunnymen: Ocean Rain DLX RM – UK – CD [2003]

  1. Silver
  2. Nocturnal Me
  3. Crystal Days
  4. The Yo-Yo Man
  5. Thorn Of Crowns
  6. The Killing Moon
  7. Seven Seas
  8. My Kingdom
  9. Ocean Rain
  10. Angels And Devils
  11. All You Need Is Love [Play At Home]
  12. The Killing Moon [Play At Home]
  13. Stars Are Stars [Play At Home]
  14. Villiers Terrace [Play At Home]
  15. Silver [Play At Home]
  16. My Kingdom [Live – A Crystal Day – 12 May 1984]
  17. Ocean Rain [Live – A Crystal Day – 12 May 1984]

“Silver” kicked off the album with the gregarious and winning sound of an upbeat Ian McCulloch singing over the urgent strumming of acoustic guitars and real drums and bass. There was nary a synthesizer in earshot and any augmentation of the band’s intimate sound was down to the fulsome orchestral arrangements from Adam Peters. “Silver” was an expansive and almost giddy song; held aloft with the best of intentions and a deceptively complex arrangement and a luxurious 12-string solo from Will Sergeant in the middle eight.

This had been the second single from the album but only in the UK. That’s understandable as it felt too sophisticated for the US airwaves. While it’s true that “The Killing Moon” and “Seven Seas” have not yet become played out for my ears; marking them as evergreen hits. Nearly 40 years later, “Silver” felt like what it was; the gift of a single that had been all but hidden from my ears for half a lifetime and coming home to roost.

The urgent brushed drumming and anxious melodramatic strings booming out of the arrangement marked “Nocturnal Me” a throwback to the Old World. The unresolved melody of the coda leaving lingering doubts in the listener’s ear. Changing pace with the ebullient “Crystal Days” found Sergeant’s clean, engaging tone out of the box dissipating the shadowy gloom of the preceding song. But it was the appearance of Sergeant’s shocking distorted solo against Pete DeFrietas’ clattering percussion that made the song positively explode in its middle eight. Hearing this now tells my ear that Korova missed a trick by not issuing it as a single.

Propulsive strummed acoustics and brushwork meant that “The Yo-Yo Man” allowed Ian McCulloch a cavernous space for his vocals to dominate the track while rare piano from Adam Peters manifested to slightly goose the melody here. The instrumental middle eight began with startling interjections of strings playing perpendicular to the melodies before a haunting piano and cymbal rondo calmed down the brief storm.

The minimal, Persian mystery of “Thorn Of Crowns” was just the sort of hard left turn that this album might need at its midpoint. The faintest hit of a Gene Krupa beat was barely there on the feather light drums. Buttery guitar chords suggested a languor while Mac’s aching sighs heralded the Arabic mystery to follow on guitar. Then Mac and the rhythm guitar awoke and kicked the song into fast gear with McCulloch spitting out his percussive lyrics with a sense of urgency as the song erupted into a technicolor splash of color. And the song vacillated between the poles of its extremes; at times serving a roiling clamor of music, and at others, retreating almost entirely into the shadows as it proffered a minimal stream of music barely there. As it reached its explosive climax, I was really hearing the influence of Television on the band that all too often lazy pundits only evoked The Doors for by way of comparison.

Next: …I See A Death Moon Rising

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7 Responses to Record Review: Echo + The Bunnymen – Ocean Rain DLX RM UK CD [pt. 1]

  1. negative1ne says:

    hi mr monk,

    glad to see you have finally got a good copy of ocean rain to listen to and enjoy.
    i came into their music through the ‘never stop’ song, which was on the US EP. i didn’t get the 7 and 12 inch until much later.

    i also didn’t get into their albums until much later either, since this song wasn’t on an album. it was included on the deluxe version of porcupine though.

    back to ocean rain, i also think silver might be one of the high points of their career, especially the remix. i know there is an argument for the killing moon, but i rank that slightly lower. the album is well put together, and is another peak for me. i haven’t listened to it hundreds of times yet, but i know it pretty well.

    there are many live concerts from them, and they have explored this album many times too. one of the more interesting ones was playing the album live with an orchestral accompaniment for the 24th anniversary. i did find the ultra rare DVD which they sold at the show (autographed) :

    for a decent price, as it sometimes goes for around a hundred plus dollars. unfortunately the video is only stills, with a voiceover option. there are some documentaries on there though. the audio is amazing, and fortunately, it was released digitally on amazon at a reasonable price :

    the 2xcd version is the ultimate one to get as you saw. so hopefully you will be able to locate a copy of that also to enjoy the live tracks on there.

    || | | ||| || |
    ne ga tiv e 1


    • postpunkmonk says:

      negativeine – I am at the age where I need to divorce myself from the idea that I need to have a “certain copy” of an album when it may never cross my path in the time [or money] that I have left. There are many CDs that exist in one copy that came out 20+ years ago…in JAPAN that would be optimal, but I can hardly afford the cost of buying in at this point. I need to embrace expedience and buying this copy, which was certainly “good enough” more than sufficed. Hell, I would have bought the straight US CD of the 9 tracks at this point!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Lazy pundits indeed! So glad you are enjoying the album as much as I always thought you would. As we learned during the band’s brief McCullough-less period, Sergeant has quite a number of influences, with psych and a pinch of world music to sweeten that pot.

    “Silver” was the first thing I ever heard from this album as I was very into UK singles at the time (and still, if I had the room for vinyl anymore), and it became a favourite track immediately — though of course the official singles are what the college-radio and MTV masses wanted, and one can easily see why.

    Can’t wait for you to “flip the record” and get onto the hit-filled “side two”!

    Liked by 1 person

    • postpunkmonk says:

      chasinvoctoria – “Silver” was the second single from the album. “The Killing Moon” was the first. I find it amazing that you might have missed “The Killing Moon” only to hear “Silver” first. But as I recall, it’s blurrier in America. “Seven Seas” was the first video on MTV and presumably the first single. There’s a USP 12″ of “Seven Seas” with “Silver” on the B-side, so you might have gotten ears on that first on college radio.


  3. Mel Creighton says:

    Ah, Echo. My favorite LP by far is Heaven Up Here, with Crocodiles at number 2. The music and production on Heaven Up Here is nothing less than stellar. I have the LP framed on my wall. A multiple copy purchase for me. You can tell the band was experimenting with psychedelics during the recordings and it pays off in spades. Set sail in those turquoise days indeed.


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