Echo & The Bunnymen - Ocean Rain
I always found the Bunnymen a difficult band to like. It was not that they were bad, but I struggled to find a place for them in my musical make up. They always seemed to be a band in desperate need of a home. That is perhaps because I always thought they changed their sound too much for their own good. Instead of finding a style and sticking to it, they tried something different with each album. Now this, you may think, would be a good thing. But in the Bunnymen's case it seemed to be less due to the desire to explore new artistic avenues or to stretch themselves as musicians, and more from a desire to fit in.
Occasionally they did some great tracks but then they slipped into pop mediocrity too often for my liking. They always struck me as a band who became post punks by default simply because they were not made into new romantics by their record company. No doubt part of that was the persona the band themselves projected. No shrinking violets were found amongst the Bunnymen. Sometimes I find the influence they had on many bands who came later to be somewhat puzzling.
Before its release, Ocean Rain was hyped (mainly by themselves and, if truth be told, principally by Ian McCullough) as the best ever album. Well I have to say, it is far from that. I do not even rate is as the Bunnymen's best album. The experimentation with horns and strings, much lauded at the time as innovative, now sounds a little twee. It really dates the album and marks it out very much as a product of its time. This is not an album I listen to often. This is not an album I ever listened to often.
Perhaps one of the faults lies in the fact that, yet again, the Bunnymen had changed their tack slightly in response to the prevailing wind direction. This time, they had moved slightly away from post-punk and headed more into goth rock territory. More echo and been put on the vocals. Will Sergeant's guitar had been shoehorned into a smooth but eerie background effect and the whole album sounded as if it had been produced in a cave. Perhaps that was the reason the band chose the particular photograph they did to put on the cover of the album.
Having said that, the remaster is a step up in quality over the old vinyl output. Some of the reworked tracks are a definite improvement on the older versions and the additional tracks offer a new perspective on the original songs. Yet none of the songs really stand out. The title track is not that appealing and the use of strings, cited at the time as a breakthrough for the new wave, actually turns out pretty naff when you listen to it over 20 years later. That being said, the live tracks, while OK, do not really add that much, and the cover of "All You Need Is Love" is pretty dire.
No, I still prefer Porcupine, but even then I cannot find it in me to place the Bunnymen with the true greats of the era such as the Chameleons, Fischer-Z, the Smiths, the Cure, the Psychedelic Furs or the Sound. I guess the Bunnymen were just not consistently miserable enough to be post punks and, as perhaps evidenced by the frequent changes in sound they made across their albums, desired too much to be part of the mainstream to be truly independent.
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