Echo and the Bunnymen

Echo and the Bunnymen

Echo & the Bunnymen

The Fountain

Ocean Rain

In 1978, all you needed to start a punk band was a safety pin and a ripped t-shirt. Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant went a bit farther – they had the scratch to get a newfangled drum machine, and that cut touring costs if nothing else. Their spare, mechanical sound eventually spun out a few decent hits, and as punk faded, their style of electronic-based music rose and formed the basics of what we regard as ’80s pop music. Bands come and go, and this pair was no exception; after the usual off-stage dramas, McCulloch and Sergeant split, pursued other projects, and reunited. I’m glad they made up. Their 11th album, The Fountain, is a pleasant collection of upbeat pop goodness, not too edgy yet not too safe. McCulloch’s voice is as good as any middle-aged rocker can hope for, and over the years, this band has struck a careful balance – each disc is just different enough to entertain, but never so radical as to alienate the fan base. In other words, this disc sounds pretty much like their heyday material, but it’s grown and matured without abandoning what made them good in the first place.

The material relies on some ironic punning. “Shroud of Turin” equates the girlfriend’s personality to a forged medieval relic while “Everlasting Neverendless” places a routine romance in the middle of a vintage Pink Floyd light show. Title track “The Fountain” has the deep, echoey chord structures of a reverb machine run wild, and “The Idolness of the Gods” feels like a summer afternoon hanging out in the back yard. While nothing jumps out as a potential hit, this collection is a pleasant mellowing of the music that carries the skills behind “The Cutter” and “The Killing Moon” into the present day. Today a drum machine is about as common as a triple pick-up, but these guys knew a good idea when they heard it, and the results are superb.

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