The posts over next few weeks are going to be a good example of how happenstance has as much to do with this journal as any kind of plan. I was in the $ Shop buying some more Jewel C.D cases when I picked up the wrong box (twin C.D’s). The result of that oversight is that I’m now sending double discs up to Armidale till the supply is exhausted. It’s actually not that much of an imposition. Most of what I choose are people I already have several albums of anyway, to witt this weeks selections by Echo & The Bunnymen, Ocean Rain and Ballyhoo (a collection of their Greatest Hits). Ballyhoo I had to include as it has two of my favorite Bunnymen songs; Bring On The Dancing Horses with its lovely flowing melody and Bedbugs & Ballyhoo with its head nodding, toe tapping beat.
Ocean Rain was Echo & The Bunnymen’s magnum opus, the great work in their canon.
It’s an album on a grand scale. Usually cited as their best by both themselves and the music press and just as a bonus it’s got a lovely cover (Carngalze Caverns, Cornwall.) The small row-boat motif that is central to the artwork is a recurring theme for them. It’s pops up again on a much later Album, Flowers so I guess must be of some significance. ‘Us against them’, ‘a floating world‘; whatever interpretation you want to put on it, It’s a nice device and it works.
The Killing Moon is the standout track for me (and probably most fans). It’s a big brooding colossus of a song; their signature piece if such thing exists. Variously described as their “unrivaled pinnacle” amongst other accolades, it was first released in 1984 then gained a new lease of life when it was used in the cult movie Donnie Darko
Like a lot of this album, The Killing Moon has a vaguely Arabic flavor to it. For some reason it reminds me of the Talking Heads, full of percussion and odd scales and descending runs of notes. It’s become an iconic song for them. A bit like Rowland S Howard’s Shiver or Ian Curtis’s Love Will Tear Us Apart, it seems to dwarf the rest of their recorded output which is probably a little to their detriment as there are killer singles sprinkled throughout their back catalog. Anyway it’s a deceptively simple song; Em, C and G cover most of it. Apparently it presented itself to Ian McCulloch in a dream, well the verse at least – I wish i had dreams like that!
The other bookend for this album is Ocean Rain which is another majestic track. It builds slowly, string sections sliding in, as it gradually opens itself up like unfolding Origami. It’s lushly orchestrated but manages to avoid getting swamped under the weight of its own symphony. Yes! At times it threatens to go under but then they pull back, retreating into the half whispered chorus; “I’m all at sea again” or paring the melody back to a single line of notes picked out on Will Sergeant’s guitar before the orchestra re-groups to fill the room up once more.
This is a song that leaves a huge footprint. It echoes and not just from their renowned love of the ‘reverb’ chamber.
It’s music that’s differentiated by sweeping vistas and saturated horizons, that indeterminate line where Art and Ideas collide.