Echo and the Bunnymen’s first four records — released from 1980 through 1984 — are essential post-punk listening. Those songs still bristle with an energy rarely found in rock music, and damn if they shouldn’t have gone into the ’90s the biggest band in the world. However, in what has become a “Behind the Music” cliché, drug use and big egos led to the Bunnymen’s implosion … and instead the world got U2.
The only justice is that today, as U2 churns out bloated dreck for the masses, the reformed Bunnymen have quietly released three records that retain the magic of old. The band’s return in 1997 with Evergreen was a pretty straight-ahead approach to past glory, while 1999’s What Are You Going to Do With Your Life? was an utterly beautiful, reflective and honest record. Of course, they weren’t the financial successes they could’ve been, and the Bunnymen were unceremoniously dropped from their label. Fans would do well to pick up the interim Avanalche EP available exclusively at gimmemusic.co.uk.
Having recently hooked up with UK indie label Cooking Vinyl, Flowers is a psychedelic romp through a Velvet Underground-colored world. Now a duo backed by stand-in musicians (drummer Pete DeFreitas died in 1989 and bassist Les Pattinson quit after Evergreen), the collaboration between front man extraordinare Ian McCulloch and guitarist Will Sergeant still bears ripe fruit.
There are some great moments on Flowers, starting with the opening line of “King of Kings”: “Met Jesus up a hill/He confessed I was dressed to kill.” “Hide & Seek” is a twisting, infectious song that would make Syd Barrett proud and the album’s single, “It’s Alright,” is an equally catchy outing with Sergeant’s guitar work showing its usual less-is-more perfection. Meanwhile, “An Eternity Turns” is a wonderfully rocking update of the Doors’ “Break on Through.”
The biggest complaint about Flowers is the lack of trademark Bunnymen choruses and melodies, as McCulloch and Sergeant settle instead for a more linear dynamic. Also missing is the heartbreaking insight of What Are you Going to Do, replaced instead with a more mundane rock pose. It’s a compromise unfortunately, but ultimately doesn’t diminish too much from another good outing. Not bad for a couple 40-something rockers.
Aaron Warshaw is the MT listings editor. E-mail him at email@example.com.