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Monday, October 15, 2012

Echo and the Bunnymen -- Crocodiles


It's October, one of the best months to listen to Echo and the Bunnymen.
Let's get this out of the way:
I love Echo and the Bunnymen.
I feel like they are a near perfect reflection of my psyche. The vocalist/rhythm guitarist and the lead guitarist are both abstract dreamers,constantly doing strange, unorthodox things. On the other hand, the bassist and the drummer are both completely down to earth, musically, a bedrock that grounds and drives the more out there stuff the other two guys are doing. Also, they are probably the greatest rock rhythm section of all time..just like my psyche. Sorry, I didn't know where to take that. Anyway...

Echo and the Bunnymen's debut album, Crocodiles, is a lean little monster. The band is hammering out their sound, and yet it already feels immediate and fully formed, despite the fact that it is far more spare than their later work. Unlike the previous sentence, Crocodiles knows where it is going, gets there quickly, and gets out. In half an hour, there is no time to get tired of anything The Bunnymen are doing. When Crocodiles ends, the only option is starting the album over.
Genre? Who knows. Crocodiles has a definite punk attitude, but at the same time, it is something completely different. The rhythm section is really driving in this one, and the other two guys pull as much off the wall as they can as they're yanked along. Did that make any sense? Well, sorry. Crocodiles sounds like the coolest part of the 80's, a great soundtrack for Halloween, and like pretty much no one else. Of course, Echo and the Bunnymen had a pretty famous contemporary...
What U2 Were Doing At the Time: Despite the fact that he insulted them on a regular basis, Echo frontman, Ian McCulloch, used U2's artistic success as an almost reverse bellwether to his band's. In the early years, McCulloch would think of U2's more commercially popular releases as crap, while regarding his own band's work as excellent.
Magically, and almost as a point of destiny, the first five albums for both bands came out in the exact same years, often months apart, which makes makes this section of the review quite easy. Shortly after the Bunnymen released Crocodiles, U2 released their debut, Boy. Like Crocodiles for the Bunnymen, Boy is more driving and spare than U2's later work. Both albums come off as unique and hungry statements of purpose. Both feature weird guitar players, loud vocalists (taking pages from Morrison and Bowie, and then throwing that out the window and doing their own thing), and firm rhythmic foundations. The difference from the beginning is that U2's debut is overwhelmingly earnest, while Echo's is effortlessly the coolest guy in the room. And yet, both albums are great debuts. Boy was actually less commercially successful in the United Kingdom than Crocodiles, though America was a different story...
2003 Edition Bonus Tracks: The early aughts re-releases for Echo and the Bunnymen's first five albums are excellent and feature a variety of bonus tracks. The Crocodiles edition features two songs that were originally only found on the American vinyl release, "Do It Clean" and "Read It in Books." They are both good songs, but the band was wise to keep the original version of Crocodiles trim without them. "Simple Stuff" is another good track recorded during the Crocodiles time-frame. After these are three early versions of Crocodiles-era tracks that are raw and fun, but not as good as the originals. The final four tracks make up the entirety of a live Bunnymen EP released after CrocodilesShine So Hard. The two cuts from Crocodiles, and two embryonic versions of tracks from the Bunnymen's second album, Heaven Up Here, are fast, raw, and furious. The band's early shows must have consisted of kids nodding their heads really, really quickly. While none of these bonus tracks are as good as what's on the original cut of the album, they are all worth having.

1980 Korova
1. Going Up 3:57
2. Stars Are Stars 2:45
3. Pride 2:41
4. Monkeys 2:49
5. Crocodiles 2:38
6. Rescue 4:26
7. Villiers Terrace 2:44
8. Pictures on My Wall 2:52
9. All That Jazz 2:43
10. Happy Death Men 4:56
2003 Edition Bonus Tracks
11. Do It Clean 2:44
12. Read It in Books 2:31
13. Simple Stuff 2:38
14. Villiers Terrace (early version) 3:08
15. Pride (early version) 2:54
16. Simple Stuff (early version) 2:37
17. Crocodiles (live) 5:09
18. Zimbo (live) 3:36
19. All That Jazz (live) 2:53
20. Over the Wall (live) 5:28

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