Cooking Vinyl / spinART
A couple of years ago I caught one of the Echo and the Bunnymen reunion shows in Washington, DC. It was probably the first time I’d seen them since the late-’80s. As it turned out, the show felt very familiar: the same fog machine, the same Leonard Cohen/Lou Reed/David Bowie/Jim Morrison fixation, the same tunes from classic records like 1984’s Ocean Rain, and the same leather jacket on the back of singer Ian McCulloch.
Of course, a few things have changed since those days. In 2003, McCulloch (Mac to his pals) writes songs that are a bit sunnier, less Messianic. On his first solo album since 1992’s weak Mysterio, Mac still sounds in fine voice and his melodic gifts are intact for the most part. The problem is he just doesn’t have much left to say. And without Bunnymen guitarist Will Sergeant around, there’s nothing really sonically interesting to make this one worth more than a couple of spins.
The opening “Love In Veins” has some basic crunchy anthemic guitar chords and a catchy melody, but irritatingly silly lyrics. “Got you in my sun sun / Yeah, got you in my rain / And I got you in my blood, blood,” McCulloch sings.
Chris Martin and Jonny Buckland of Coldplay turn up on “Sliding” and “Arthur,” which features a spooky, cello-tinged, Ocean Rain-like melody on the verses and a bouncy chorus that ultimately goes nowhere.
McCulloch does come up with a couple of sweetly elegiac tunes in “Playgrounds and City Parks” and “Seasons.” On the latter he sings, “Running out of time / It’s half past yours and mine / Forgetting more than we remember / Still trying to find things we left behind / In Januarys to Decembers.”
He sings about a woman waiting for her time to come on the pretty “She Sings (All My Life).” The character isn’t sketched with much definition but at least McCulloch sounds great using his lower register on the effective chorus.
That’s about as good as it gets, though. On “Baby Hold On,” Mac reassures a loved one with empty, generic Hallmark card rhymes. “High Wires” is the tune that screams hit single here but even it seems to lack surprises. “Another Train” sounds like two songs fused together, neither very good. The set0closing “Stake Your Claim” has some decent axe work from guitarist Pete Byrne, virtually aping Sergeant. Unfortunately it’s a fairly uninteresting, repetitive song.
Slideling isn’t a terrible album by any means. It just doesn’t have a whole lot of depth to it. Call it Bunnymen extra-lite. How long can it be until they roll out that fog machine and kick into “The Killing Moon” one more time?