Sunday, 17 August 2014

REVIEW: Echo And The Bunnymen - 'Meteorites' (PledgeMusic)

A late review I know, but one that was written months ago and temporaily lost on a USB stick...

Ian McCulloch wasn't exactly understated in his promises when it came to announcing the new Echo And The Bunnymen album 'Meteorites'. "At long last we’ve made the worthy successor to ‘Crocodiles’, ‘Heaven Up Here’, ‘Porcupine’, and ‘Ocean Rain’" claimed McCulloch. "‘Meteorites’ is what Echo and the Bunnymen mean and are meant to be…up there in Heaven…untouchable, celestial, beautiful, and real…it has changed my life." Promises like this make it even more disappointing that their twelfth studio album doesn't hold a candle to 'Ocean Rain' or any of the other early Bunnymen classics. They've fallen into the trap of mistakenly thinking that making songs in the same style as their most acclaimed works will qualify as a "return to form", forgetting that the quality of the songs was what made those earlier records so special.

But let's concentrate on the good bits, during which we get a few genuine glimpses of that old magic, the yearning opening title track being one of two clear highlights, full of shadowy drama and despairing elegance. The other stand out comes later in the record on the superb 'Market Town', a colourful psychedelic epic loaded with sitars and big hooks. Elsewhere, 'Explosions' has a strident yet reflective melody that charms and satisfies, although the lyrics could have done with a little bit of fine tuning. 'Lovers On The Run' is a dark, dramatic sequel to 'The Killing Moon' which is actually enjoyable song, despite the fact that you can almost hear McCulloch telling us: "it sounds like the old stuff, so it's just as good!"

Undoubtedly, it would have been better for McCulloch not to compare 'Meteorites' to the magnificent 'Ocean Rain'. Sometimes approaching an album with low expectations can leave you pleasantly surprised by the positives.  Telling your fans that you've equalled your greatest moments is going to lead to disappointment when they're served with the sort of Bunnymen by-numbers found on the majority of this record. 'Holy Moses' becomes pedestrian before it's given a chance to get going, while on 'Constantinople', the excitement created by an excellent guitar hook is dampened by the song's overall lack of direction, and any claims that the likes of 'Is This A Breakdown' could equal the band's classic works are completely ludicrous.

A lot of it just sounds too slight, and doesn't really stick, 'Grapes On The Vine' being a prime example. Occasionally, the promise made by a great verse is dishonoured by a flaccid chorus (completely wasting 'Burn It Down'), and at times it sounds like a little more effort could have been made here and there. Take for example 'New Horizons', where a wonderful verse clearly deserves to be paired with a chorus that doesn't just consist completely of the two words from the title.

For a band whose early works are among the greatest albums of all time, it's a shame to hear them sounding this uninspired. It's not an awful record, just disappointing and sometimes slightly mediocre. What makes it worse is all McCulloch's talk of it being up there with his finest works. Certainly didn't do himself any favours there. 5/10

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