When the music press found out that Echo and the Bunnymen would be reuniting
with producer Hugh Jones, who manned the boards for the band’s 1981’s album,
Heaven Up Here (as well as on the band’s seminal single, “Never Stop”), they
went...hmmm, what’s the technical term I’m looking for?
Oh, right: apeshit.
Well, good for them. It’s been far too easy to dump on the Bunnymen for the
better part of twenty years.
The band more or less disintegrated in 1988, with lead singer Ian McCulloch
embarking on a solo career and drummer Pete DeFrietas dying in a car crash the
following year, but guitarist Will Sergeant and bassist Les Pattinson
resurrected the band name in 1990 with one Noel Burke on vocals. It didn’t last.
In 1994, McCulloch and Sergeant buried the hatchet and started a new band called
Electrafixion...but, despite one highly underrated album, that didn’t last,
either. The renewed partnership between the pair did, however, and they brought
back the Bunnymen name for 1997’s Evergreen, even including Pattinson in
the fold once more. Pattinson has since retired from the music business, but
Echo and the Bunnymen have continued to record without him, producing 1999’s
instant classic (but woefully underpromoted) What Are You Going To Do With
Your Life? and 2001’s Flowers.
Flowers, however, was produced by Peter Collins, who went after a more
raw sound for the band, not unlike their Electrafixion days. With Siberia,
Jones has gone back to the sparkling sound that he brought to Heaven Up Here,
and it works wonders. One could suggest that McCulloch’s voice has gotten more
confident with age, but one thing he’s never lacked is confidence; still, at the
very least, it’s as strong as it ever was. Sergeant, meanwhile, remains the
master of post-punk psychedelic guitar; tracks like “Of a Life” and “Sideways
Eight” are particular spotlights for his talent. Keyboardist Paul Klein shines
on “Make Us Blind,” and, on the gentle “Everything Kills You,” McCulloch’s
smooth delivery of his lyrics are such that you’re, like, “Kills me, eh?
Everything? Well, fair enough, then, Ian; glad it was you who broke the news to
me, mate.” There are plenty more highlights, but, to pick one more for the road,
the verses of the title cut are a dark shuffle, reminiscent of “Bedbugs and
Ballyhoo,” but the chorus lunges upwards, powered by the jangle of Sergeant’s
guitar...and then it’s back down again to the darkness; the musical dichotomy is
Ian McCulloch’s ego has always led the way in the band’s interviews, but, for
the first time in several years, when he says Echo and the Bunnymen are one of
the best bands in the world, he’s got an album to back up that claim.