Vocalist Ian McCulloch has been through hell and back– and their new (12th) studio album, which also features co-Bunnyman guitarist Will Seargant, pulses and vibrates with lyrical tenebrosity, his aching tenor coated in velvet.
The trademarks of earlier Bunnymen stuff –the witchy, the gothic, the ethereal – are there on new album Meteorites – tracks Lovers on the Run and Constantinople evoking The Killing Moon and the eerie strangeness of their version of People are Strange.
Track Constantinople in particular is a psych-pop
mirage that palpitates with inflections of eastern-mystic guitars and Jim Morrison-esque poetics, whilst
provocatively, brazenly “All the things I did/horrified/horrified”.
McCulloch sings candidly about his internal sufferings, his ruined pasts and wreckages, whilst also playing the role of seducer.
However, not all tracks are as unwavering in their unique sound.
Is this a Breakdown? sounds like something just as bland and trite as anything that has come out of commercial indie pop in the last few years-mediocre sentiment, mediocre sound.
Something you can imagine being played on an advert, with the volume turned down.
The eponymous Meteorites also lacks the creeping darkness that is so synonymous with the Bunnymen sound, instead being a sleepy, insipid pop song that is reminiscent of Dad-Band Elbow.
The album plays, at times, as rock-gospel, McCulloch wailing esoteric – at an invisible entity – “life just a sequence of events/then a breathless silence” in the closing number, New Horizons.
It’s wonderful in its nihilism, it’s apocalyptic outlook of the world, punk in its ethos, despite its jangly, almost light melody, similar to Market Town, it’s reverberation of “no survivors/ no survivors/no survivors when you’ve gone”.
Holy Moses has a more uplifting, sanguine sound, continuing the celestial themes that stamp the album, whilst sadly lacking the sharp-knife edge of earlier songs.
Grapes Upon The Vine, an apocryphal song, with its double allusions – drugs and alcohol – “I’ve been tasting, all the grapes upon the vine/you’ve been wasted/wasted all the time,” hints at McCulloch’s immersion in the rock’n’roll lifestyle; now re-born, a survivor, a messiah, this is his atonement, in 47 minutes, “I’ve been thinking of raising the ghost,” using music to confront his past self.
The tedium of a few disappointments are forgiven by the excitement of Lovers on the Run; pure Bunnymen at their very best, the twinkling guitars of Sergeant and swaying voice of McCulloch melding together to create a flamboyant, sublime, ghostly song, rich with natural imagery ,“rising tides/burning suns”, evoking séances at dawns and hallucinatory chases around town.
(Proving once again that Echo and the Bunnymen are excellent when they are doing soundtracks).
McCulloch’s gravelly voice is deep and unfathomable, like a pitch-black starry night.
Overall, Meteorites succeeds in its intricate depiction of contrasts; Dark vs Light, Past vs Present and Faith vs Apathy.
Where it stumbles it falls but certainly manages to resurrect and ignite the original haunting, unique spirit of old-era Echo and the Bunnymen, a testament to the liberation of McCulloch’s demons.