upon a time, Ian McCulloch, once and forever the voice of Echo and the
Bunnymen, couldn’t make it through more than a couple songs before he broke out
in a trademark wail which was a little wobbly but always dramatic. Robert Smith
couldn’t touch him with a ten-foot pole. Or groom his tall coif.
On The Fountain, the fifth Bunnymen studio album
since McCulloch and Will Sergeant (the other guitarist and only other original
member) patched things up, the vocalist never pulls out his trademark. He sticks
with mid-range talk singing. He doesn’t sound bad, he just sounds…. average. That’s
just one of things working against this album.
once he was making literary references or merely stuttering types of produce
convincingly, McCulloch is now singing, “Love it, hate it/ Want it, had it/
Need it, got it/ Down, d-down, d-down,” over hard rock power chords to create a
sound that would fit perfectly into some commercial over images of pouty
hipsters eating mayonnaise or buying clothes. Or maybe a scene of old school
Bunnymen fans driving their hip new car. Titled “Do You Know Who I Am?” it begs
the answer: I don’t know.
doesn’t make the album a wash, nor are either of those scenarios inherently
evil. But it reinforces that here the Bunnymen sound like any alternative rock
band that was influenced by the Liverpool
quartet’s original albums. In fact, aside from McCulloch and Sergeant, the band
is anybody. Three additional
musicians are listed in the CD booklet without instrument credits so it’s
unclear if they are the blokes who Mac referred to in the CD press release when
he talks about working on song ideas with “three London-based musicians,” or if
they’re just support players. Five of the 12 tracks give producers John
McLaughlin and Simon Perry co-writing credit along with McCulloch and Sergeant.
Surprisingly, the title track is one of only three songs McCulloch wrote by
himself, and it’s one of the strongest, indicating that the old style can be
dressed up for modern times if it has a chance.
Standout Tracks: “I
Think I Need it Too,” “The Fountain” MIKE SHANLEY