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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Echo and the Bunnymen -- What Are You Going to Do with Your Life?


1999, the year before I graduated high school, was the best of my life to this moment. I remember sitting in my car that summer on my Winn-Dixie lunch break, trying to plot out a time to go see American Beauty (a manipulative, but incredibly well-made film), when this song came on my KLSU-tuned radio.

My first thought was, wow this song is beautiful. My second thought was, who is this wise old dude singing it? That old dude was Ian McCulloch, and while What Are You Going to Do With Your Life? is an Echo and the Bunnymen album, and the first my 17-year old self ever heard of the band, it might as well be an Ian McCulloch solo album. As it turns out, though, in the case of What Are You Going to Do With Your Life?, that is a very good thing.
What Are You Going to Do With Your Life? is the sound of Ian McCulloch watching his own sun set, and waiting for the stars to come out. He fully embraces his aging rock-star identity, doesn't try to be something he is not, and produces a chilled out album of mostly full-band and strings acoustic songs punctuated by electric lights from guitarist, Will Segeant, the Bunnymen's only other remaining original member.
The cover art of McCulloch gradually wandering into a desert makes for a great reflection of the album, as well. A few weeks after hearing this for the first time, my family took a trip all the way across America on I-10 West to the Pacific. I saw the American West for the first time with this album fresh in my head, facing one more year of high school and wondering the very question of the album title. The answer was simple: Review this album on my Internet blog thirteen years later and give it a 9/10.
What U2 Were Doing At the Time: While Echo and the Bunnymen had now learned the art of aging gracefully, U2 was still two years away from doing the same (with 2001's excellent All That You Can't Leave Behind). In fact, U2 was fresh off of kind of embarrassing themselves by doing exactly the opposite with the promotion of their 1997 Pop album, trying to be hip and with it like the kids these days, and just looking kind of silly. Actually, with the rumors of who has been producing them lately, I'm scared they're about to do it again, but anyway... Between U2 and Echo and the Bunnymen, the Bunnymen always peaked first, and their "check it out, we're old" album is no different.

1999 London Records
1. What Are You Going to Do with Your Life? 5:11
2. Rust 5:09
3. Get in the Car 4:21
4. Baby Rain 4:17
5. History Chimes 3:25
6. Lost on You 4:50
7. Morning Sun 4:12
8. When It All Blows Over 2:57
9. Fools Like Us 4:02


Anonymous said...


I've been enjoying learning more about Echo and the Bunnymen. Way to be awesome, sir.


Nicholas said...

Thanks, man! Glad you're enjoying it. Great band!

Neal said...

Rather than wait for you to get to the Us, you and I are going to have words about Pop right now. Okay, not really serious words, but I do disagree in part. :p

I don't remember the promotion around it super well and the whole thing was a little over the top (and the staging for the All That You Can't Leave Behind concert was much better... if anything, the two since seem to be going over the top like Pop's again). But I like the album. All That You Can't Leave Behind is a great album, but it does feel a bit like "easy-listening U2." Not as much as Atomic Bomb, but it's still in that direction.

Pop is grittier and rougher than most of U2's work, and I like it for that. I think the reason I like No Line On the Horizon so much is that it's a little less "easy listening" as well.

And hey, it's Bono. No matter what phase of U2 you're in, he's always a little over the top, even when he's trying to find his way.

Nicholas said...

Haha, Neal. Pop has some great songs, and I don't hate it.
I'm specifically talking about this:
I remember Larry Mullen later saying that his friends in Ireland never let him live that cowboy outfit down.

Neal said...

Awww, that video? That video is pure comedy gold! Did U2 seriously think it was being serious with that video? I took it as tongue in cheek, because you have to be kidding around if you're dressing like the Village People.

I also take that video as a barometer of the band's personalities. Bono is clearly having way too much fun with it, Edge is most of the way there with him, and poor Adam and Larry are the poor schmucks that got talked into doing something stupid with their friends.

Oddly enough, that's one of the few videos of theirs I have seen more than once. Someone I knew taped MTV's hours and hours of U2 music videos, done in celebration of their new single, Discotheque, and we watched it one night for a few hours. Admittedly, I might get a kick out of that video more from watching it late at night with friends and laughing about how goofy they all looked.

Nicholas said...

I will never forgive them for that video. It's humorous if you are a U2 fan today. In high school, I constantly had to defend my U2 love because of it.
"Those are them weird dudes in that disco video!"
"No, it's supposed to be tongue-in-cheek."
"They do what with their tongues?"
"Oh, nevermind. Yes, that video is lame."

Neal said...

Awww, hater high schoolers taking things too seriously. Fight for your principles, Nicholas! C'mon! :p

But yeah. Sometimes hard to defend your favorite band when they do silly stuff.