February 22, 2019

Depeche Mode - Speak & Spell (1981)

*European first pressing. Contains 11 tracks total.
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Synth Pop
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© 1981-1984 Mute Records
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett
Though probably nobody fully appreciated it at the time -- perhaps least of all the band! -- Depeche Mode's debut is at once both a conservative, functional pop record and a groundbreaking release. While various synth pioneers had come before -- Gary Numan, early Human League, late-'70s Euro-disco, and above all Kraftwerk all had clear influence on Speak & Spell -- Depeche became the undisputed founder of straight-up synth pop with the album's 11 songs, light, hooky, and danceable numbers about love, life, and clubs. For all the claims about "dated" '80s sounds from rock purists, it should be noted that the basic guitar/bass/drums lineup of rock is almost 25 years older than the catchy keyboard lines and electronic drums making the music here. That such a sound would eventually become ubiquitous during the Reagan years, spawning lots of crud along the way, means the band should no more be held to blame for that than Motown and the Beatles for inspiring lots of bad stuff in the '60s. Credit for the album's success has to go to main songwriter Vince Clarke, who would extend and arguably perfect the synth pop formula with Yazoo and Erasure; the classic early singles "New Life," "Dreaming of Me," and "Just Can't Get Enough," along with numbers ranging from the slyly homoerotic "Pretty Boy" to the moody thumper "Photographic," keep everything moving throughout. David Gahan undersings about half the album, and Martin Gore's two numbers lack the distinctiveness of his later work, but Speak & Spell remains an undiluted joy.

tags: depeche mode, speak and spell, 1981, flac,

Depeche Mode - A Broken Frame (1982)

*European first pressing. Contains 10 tracks total.
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Synth Pop
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© 1982-1984 Mute Records
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett
Martin Gore has famously noted that Depeche Mode stopped worrying about its future when the first post-Vince Clarke-departure single, "See You," placed even higher on the English charts than anything else Clarke had done with them. Such confidence carries through all of A Broken Frame, a notably more ambitious effort than the pure pop/disco of the band's debut. With arranging genius Alan Wilder still one album away from fully joining the band, Frame became very much Gore's record, writing all the songs and exploring various styles never again touched upon in later years. "Satellite" and "Monument" take distinct dub/reggae turns, while "Shouldn't Have Done That" delivers its slightly precious message about the dangers of adulthood with a spare arrangement and hollow, weirdly sweet vocals. Much of the album follows in a dark vein, forsaking earlier sprightliness, aside from tracks like "A Photograph of You" and "The Meaning of Love," for more melancholy reflections about love gone wrong as "Leave in Silence" and "My Secret Garden." More complex arrangements and juxtaposed sounds, such as the sparkle of breaking glass in "Leave in Silence," help give this underrated album even more of an intriguing, unexpected edge. Gore's lyrics sometimes veer on the facile, but David Gahan's singing comes more clearly to the fore throughout -- things aren't all there yet, but they were definitely starting to get close.

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February 21, 2019

Culture Club - Colour By Numbers (1983)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Pop, Reggae Pop
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© 1983 Virgin Records
AllMusic Review by Jose F. Promis
Colour by Numbers was Culture Club's most successful album, and, undoubtedly, one of the most popular albums from the 1980s. Scoring no less than four U.S. hit singles (and five overseas), this set dominated the charts for a full year, both in the United States and in Europe. The songs were infectious, the videos were all over MTV, and the band was a media magnet. Boy George sounded as warm and soulful as ever, but one of the real stars on this set was backing vocalist Helen Terry, who really brought the house down on the album's unforgettable first single, "Church of the Poison Mind." This album also featured the band's biggest (and only number one) hit, the irresistibly catchy "Karma Chameleon," its more rock & roll Top Five follow-up "Miss Me Blind," and the fourth single (and big club hit), "It's a Miracle" (which also featured Helen Terry's unmistakable belting). Also here are "Victims," a big, dark, deep, and bombastic power ballad that was a huge hit overseas but never released in the U.S., and other soulful favorites such as "Black Money" and "That's the Way (I'm Only Trying to Help You)," where Boy George truly flexed his vocal muscles. In the 1980s music was, in many cases, flamboyant, fun, sexy, soulful, colorful, androgynous, and carefree, and this album captured that spirit perfectly. A must for any collector of 1980s music, and the artistic and commercial pinnacle of a band that still attracted new fans years later.

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Echo & The Bunnymen - Echo & The Bunnymen (1987) ☠

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: New Wave, Pop Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1987 WEA
AllMusic Review by David Cleary
Echo & the Bunnymen caught the group at a fortuitous career juncture; the clutch of songs here were among the hookiest and most memorable the band would ever write, while the arrangements are noticeably clean and punchy, mostly eliminating strings and similar clutter to focus almost exclusively on guitars, keyboards, drums, and occasional percussion touches. The warmly expressive "All My Life," which might perhaps have received an overheated arrangement on prior albums, benefited especially from this approach. The band rocked out convincingly on other selections, such as "Satellite" and "All in Your Mind." Pete DeFreitas' solid drumming at times veered toward the danceable on tracks like "Lost and Found," "Lips Like Sugar," and the overtly Doors-influenced "Bedbugs and Ballyhoo." Surprisingly, vocalist Ian MuCulloch appeared to have rediscovered the maxim "less is more"; his singing was comparatively restrained and tasteful, resulting in a more natural, unforced emotiveness that was extremely effective. The production values were excellent, with many subtle touches that do not detract from the album's overall directness. In short, doing it clean really paid off here.

tags: echo and the bunnymen, bunny men, echo and the bunnymen album, 1987, flac,

Deep Blue Something - Deep Blue Something (2001) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock, Post Grunge
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2001 Aezra/Orpheus Music
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato
When Twisted Sister issued their 1985 album, Come Out and Play, the members were convinced they'd created their best work yet. But ultimately, the record was met with a very cool response by their fans -- a major disappointment after the double platinum success of their preceding album, 1984's Stay Hungry. For their next album, Love Is for Suckers (issued in 1987), the band attempted returning to more straight-ahead, hard rock-based songwriting. Long-time drummer A.J. Pero left the band prior to the album (replaced by session drummer Joey Franco), and the raw approach of their early work was noticeably absent -- producer Beau Hill (Ratt, Winger) gave the album a very '80s pop-metal sound. Standouts included "Hot Love," the title track, and "Tonight," but like the album before it, Love Is for Suckers died quickly on the charts. Having been together for over ten years, Twisted Sister decided to call it a day shortly after the album's release. The 1999 CD re-issue included four bonus tracks not included on the original -- "Feel Appeal," "Statutory Date," "If That's What You Want," and "I Will Win."

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Twisted Sister - Love Is For Suckers (1987)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1987 Atlantic Records
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato
When Twisted Sister issued their 1985 album, Come Out and Play, the members were convinced they'd created their best work yet. But ultimately, the record was met with a very cool response by their fans -- a major disappointment after the double platinum success of their preceding album, 1984's Stay Hungry. For their next album, Love Is for Suckers (issued in 1987), the band attempted returning to more straight-ahead, hard rock-based songwriting. Long-time drummer A.J. Pero left the band prior to the album (replaced by session drummer Joey Franco), and the raw approach of their early work was noticeably absent -- producer Beau Hill (Ratt, Winger) gave the album a very '80s pop-metal sound. Standouts included "Hot Love," the title track, and "Tonight," but like the album before it, Love Is for Suckers died quickly on the charts. Having been together for over ten years, Twisted Sister decided to call it a day shortly after the album's release. The 1999 CD re-issue included four bonus tracks not included on the original -- "Feel Appeal," "Statutory Date," "If That's What You Want," and "I Will Win."

tags: twisted sister, love is for suckers, 1987, flac,

Twisted Sister - Stay Hungry (1984) ☠

*This is the original first U.S. pressing on CD. Contains 9 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hard Rock, Heavy Metal
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☠: Selected by Buccaneer
© 1984 Atlantic Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
After nearly a decade trying to make it to "The Show," Twisted Sister were finally up to bat. Their first album was a wild swing, their second had flown just barely foul, but with their third -- the unstoppable Stay Hungry -- the New York veterans finally hit one out of the park. And few bands were as deserving. Having paid their dues on the tough as nails N.Y.C. club scene (half of the band looked like the Ramones, the other half like the Dictators, and Dee Snider looked like, well, Dee Snider), Twisted Sister had finally worn down the opposition and truly arrived. With their comedic videos and bubblegum undertones, hit singles "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "I Wanna Rock" helped the band bridge the "beauty gap" into MTV acceptance, and a competent power ballad in "The Price" would cement their consumer-friendly status. But it was the irrefutable menace of tracks like "The Beast," "S.M.F.," and the massive "Burn in Hell" that connected with their loyal fans and displayed Twisted Sister's true power. Equally grim, "Captain Howdy" and "Street Justice" -- the two songs comprising the "Horror-teria" suite (later the basis for Snider's ill-fated movie project Strangeland) -- are a cross between Alice Cooper and its stated source of influence, Stephen King. And don't forget the all-out metal ambition of the title track. Ironically, the album's very mainstream appeal would alienate their core heavy metal fan base and spell the band's overexposure-induced fall from grace, but for this brief moment, Twisted Sister were truly the "talk of the town, top of the heap."

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Deep Blue Something - 11th Song (1993)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock, Pop Rock
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© 1993 Doberman Records
*No professional reviews available for this release.

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Deep Blue Something - Home (1995 Reissue)

*Reissued in 1995 by Interscope Records. Contains 12 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock, Pop Rock
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© 1994-1995 Interscope Records
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
The worldview of Todd Pipes, who wrote nine of the 12 songs on Deep Blue Sometbing's debut album, Home (the other three had lyrics by his brother Toby), is that of the educated American twenty-something of the 1990s: referencing art objects from the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's to the paintings of Kandinsky, he and his friends suffer the travails of romance, compromise, and suicide while trying to establish themselves as independent adults. Pipes sets these concerns to a power-pop sound straight out of late-'70s/early-'80s Great Britain (in turn indebted to the Brit rock of 1965), perhaps an odd stylistic choice for a band from Denton, TX, but it's a small world after all, and they find enough hooks to offer a literally upbeat contrast to the youthful uncertainty in the lyrics. Ironically, given the defiantly uncommercial stance put forth on the album-closing "Wouldn't Change a Thing," Home, propelled by the Top Ten success of "Breakfast at Tiffany's," became a substantial hit. (Deep Blue Something released an earlier version of Home on RainMaker Records in October 1994. The Interscope version released in June 1995 contained two fewer songs; three songs had been re-recorded; and the remaining songs had been remixed.)

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Echo & The Bunnymen - Meteorites (2014)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Alternative Rock, Pop Rock
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© 2014 429 Records
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra
After they reunited in the mid-'90s, Echo & the Bunnymen cranked out album after album of decent-to-good material, spotlighting Ian McCulloch's ageless vocals and the band's sure way with a dramatic hook. For 2014's Meteorites, the duo of McCulloch and guitarist Will Sergeant turned to legendary producer Youth to help guide the album, and came up with a record that compares favorably to the best work of their original run in the '80s. Where their previous effort, Fountain, was a big-sounding, very clean modern rock album that reduced the band to its essential core, this one aspires to more epic heights. Teeming with giant string arrangements, widescreen vocal production, and songs that hark back to the glory days of Ocean Rain, the album is a mysterious, murky, impressively nostalgic affair. With Sergeant providing his typically concise and perfectly complementary guitar lines and Mac digging deep to turn in one of his better vocal performances in a while, the duo give Youth a lot to work with and he spins it into some gauzy magic. Tracks like "Lovers on the Run" and "Holy Moses" have a dramatic intensity and sweeping power that their more focused and stripped-back songs of recent years have surely missed. When they go big, it works extremely well, like on the opening title track, a slowly unspooling epic with truly heart-rending string crescendos and some of Mac's most broken-sounding singing in a long time, or the huge-sounding "Market Town," which runs seven minutes, features a long Sergeant guitar solo, and doesn't flag at all. Even the simpler, more direct songs, like the quiet ballad "Grapes Upon the Vine," have a big sound, though not so big as to overwhelm the fragile emotions on display. Youth and the group walk the line between grandiose and epic throughout, never falling on the wrong side even once. Between the impressive set of songs, the totally invested performances, and Youth's brilliant production, Meteorites ends up as a late-in-the-game triumph for the band and a worthy successor to their finest album, Ocean Rain. It may be too late to really matter, and they may be doomed to be seen as a nostalgia act, but many of the bands in 2014 that are making neo-psychedelic albums would be well served to check with the Bunnymen to see how to go about things the correct way.

tags: echo and the bunnymen, bunny men, meteorites, 2014, flac,

February 20, 2019

Twisted Sister - Under The Blade (1982)

*First pressing on CD. This pressing contain the original 1982 LP mix and 9 tracks total.

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1982-1985 Secret/Roadrunner Records
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato
Although Twisted Sister had been slugging it out on the New York-area bar/club scene for nearly a decade by the early '80s (developing a large following in the process), no major record label would sign the act. Noticing that England was in the midst of a heavy metal resurgence (dubbed the New Wave of British Heavy Metal), the quintet moved over to the U.K., where they recorded their debut album, Under the Blade, issued in 1982 on the independent Secret Records. UFO bassist Pete Way produced the album, which featured many of the band's best compositions from their club days. The chilling title track remains one of the band's best and has became a perennial concert favorite, while other metallic highlights include the opening "What You Don't Know (Sure Can Hurt You)," "Sin After Sin," "Shoot 'Em Down," and "Tear It Loose." The band also brings the volume down a notch or two with the slow-burning tracks "Run for Your Life" and "Destroyer," while the 1999 CD reissue on Spitfire included a bonus track not on the original record ("I'll Never Grow Up Now!"). Under the Blade remains one of Twisted Sister's hardest rocking albums and is highly recommended to lovers of early-'80s British heavy metal.

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Fozzy - Fozzy (2000)

Country: U.S.A./Canada
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 2000 Megaforce Records
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
Although the concept of Fozzy -- an American metal band trapped in Japan for 20 years finds that its material has been stolen by other artists -- suggests parallels with Spinal Tap, there's one very important difference: Spinal Tap wrote all its own original material, whereas Fozzy sticks exclusively to covers. So, in practice, when it's divorced from the story line of the accompanying web broadcasts, Fozzy just feels like an excuse for Chris Jericho and Stuck Mojo to perform their favorite early-'80s metal songs. But, considering that Fozzy is in reality a rap-metal band fronted by a professional wrestler, the album is surprisingly not bad. Jericho is a more than competent vocalist, and despite an occasional tendency to go a little too far over the top ("Over the Mountain" and the spoken intro to "The Prisoner"), he generally acquits himself well. The band, meanwhile, injects enough technical flash and showmanship to sound like a genuine early-'80s metal outfit. What's more, the all-around enthusiasm for this music is readily apparent (either that, or faked really well); it's played straight all the way through, with no attempts to make anything into ironic kitsch. So, all in all, the project turned out as well as was probably possible. Still, since these are all covers of fairly familiar items, Fozzy the album can't really stand on its own; it will likely be appreciated mainly by fans of the web series or of the people involved.

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Six Feet Under - 13 (2005)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Death Metal
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© 2005 Metal Blade Records
AllMusic Review by Wade Kergan
This double-CD set pairs two Six Feet Under albums, 13 (2005) and Graveyard Classics, Vol. 2 (2004), together in a limited-edition slipcase. The pairing was offered at a discounted price, giving fans a chance to pick up the latest album of original material along with the band's song-for-song tribute to AC/DC's Back in Black.

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Six Feet Under - Commandment (2007)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Death Metal
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© 2007 Metal Blade Records
Review by Allmusic.com
Pummeling drums, slabs of evil guitar, and searing lyrics mark the triumphant return of death-metal juggernaut Six Feet Under. About half the album apes the old grindcore approach of their earlier work, while the rest steps up the pace to breakneck speed. Written and recorded entirely in the studio within a two-week period, the songs on the album seem of a piece but never samey.

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Nine Days - The Madding Crowd (2000) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock, Pop Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2000 Epic/550 Music
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
Nine Days references Thomas Hardy in the title of its major-label debut, The Madding Crowd, but beyond the literary association the group is also making a point about its songs, which are embedded in modern life, not, as in Hardy, far from it. Co-leaders John Hampson (he of the smoother voice and the somewhat perkier attitude) and Brian Desveaux (whose throaty singing usually expresses more desperate feelings) have written an album's worth of songs about personal relationships that are often rocky, but always involved and involving. The "I" who is addressing a "you" most of the time frequently is trying to get back into her good graces, while admitting mistakes, though sometimes "you" isn't in such great shape, either. "If I Am," for example, begins with the line, "So you're standing on a ledge," but pledges, "I will not let you down," an assurance with a double meaning. You don't have to listen for the Hammond organ wail to realize that these guys have been influenced by Bob Dylan, and they erase any doubt in "Bob Dylan," for which they have received permission to sample excerpts from the master's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue." But fans of more contemporary rock will be reminded more of Pearl Jam and They Might Be Giants, with the catchy "Absolutely (Story of a Girl)" suggesting Barenaked Ladies. The alternating and harmonizing voices of the two lead singers often are reminiscent of BoDeans, though the group's music is usually more complexly arranged. Hampson and Desveaux still need to work on their songwriting, which can get too wordy and occasionally trips over itself ("If I Am," for example, employs the awkward line "Have in me a little faith" for the sake of a near-rhyme), just as their music can be a little dense at times. But The Madding Crowd is a promising debut by talented musicians who are headed in the right direction.

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Echo & The Bunnymen - Flowers (2001)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Alternative Rock
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© 2001 Cooking Vinyl/Spinart Records
AllMusic Review by MacKenzie Wilson
Still clinging to the post-punk snarl that made them cult favorites during the '80s, Echo and the Bunnymen's Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant maintain a stunning inventiveness as they enter into the third decade of the band. They're older, but an ignited passion remains central. What Are You Going to Do With Your Life? was more or less a lackluster Ian McCulloch effort, but the mediocrity of that album was twisted into a clear beauty for Echo's ninth album, Flowers. After contractual battles with London Records, a deal with SpinArt contributed to the redefined structure of the band, and Flowers solidified McCulloch's and Sergeant's brotherly musical jaunt, reaching a respectable status. McCulloch isn't an angst-ridden punk -- he's aged with class -- and Sergeant's typically moody guitar work has mellowed. The alluring rawness of the band is intact, and songs such as "King of Kings" and "Hide & Seek" are playful cuts with reminiscent production work of 1983's musical prize, Ocean Rain. "It's Alright" rolls with layered guitars, and McCulloch experiments vocally for a rough-edged spiral of psychedelics and '60s pop flair. "Everybody Knows" and "An Eternity Turns" get back to basics, circa Crocodiles, and they are the most consistent set of songs on the new album. Ian McCulloch is at his finest with a lyrical clarity that is typically dark, intelligent and swaggering. Sergeant's rippling accompaniment is rightfully complimentary to define that Echo and the Bunnymen have stayed in tune to what makes them an effective unit. Flowers doesn't possess the initial fiery power of the band's first four albums, but the underlying concept that brought McCulloch and Sergeant together in 1978 is what matters, and this album holds true to such a bond.

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Echo & The Bunnymen - Siberia (2005) ☠

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Alternative Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2005 Cooking Vinyl USA
AllMusic Review by MacKenzie Wilson
Since their 1997 comeback, Echo & the Bunnymen have made some genuine attempts to keep the momentum going. Evergreen and What Are You Going to Do with Your Life? were eager, bright, and still a little brash. Flowers was nice with its light canvas; however, most fans still preferred their earlier material. That's not to say an older Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant don't make great music together. It's just that the recent material seemed too prosaic. Their sound is so distinctly their own with Sergeant's silvery, tight guitar work and McCulloch's fashionable, sweet-and-sour kind of vocal charm. Siberia, Echo's tenth studio album (including the sans-McCulloch disaster, Reverberation), is the album the two school friends have been trying to make since getting back together to record Evergreen. This 11-song set has every crass beat of Crocodiles and every sparkling thread of Heaven Up Here while the edgy pop moments of the underrated Porcupine are sprinkled throughout. And of course, Ocean Rain will not be forgotten. If anything, Siberia mirrors the passion of that 1984 classic most of all. Sergeant's playing has never sounded better, particularly on the playful self-reflections of "Parthenon Drive" and "Of a Life." McCulloch's lyrics are exactly on par, and vocally, he's sharper than ever. Call it an age thing, but Siberia makes total sense for where Echo & the Bunnymen stands 20 years on as a band. They couldn't have created this album before now. Songs such as the bittersweet musings of "Stormy Weather" and "All Because of You Days" capture Echo & the Bunnymen at their most confident. Album standout "Scissors in the Sand" finds the band's usual cool and cocky demeanor still intact. Really, Siberia is a beautiful album. All those years ago, Echo & the Bunnymen gave the world some "songs to learn and sing." With Siberia, they do it again.

tags: echo and the bunnymen, bunny men, siberia, 2005, album

February 19, 2019

Echo & The Bunnymen - Crocodiles (1980)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: New Wave
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© 1980-1988 Korova Records
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett
Inspired by psychedelia, sure. Bit of Jim Morrison in the vocals? OK, it's there. But for all the references and connections that can be drawn (and they can), one listen to Echo's brilliant, often harrowing debut album and it's clear when a unique, special band presents itself. Beginning with the dramatic, building climb of "Going Up," Crocodiles at once showcases four individual players sure of their own gifts and their ability to bring it all together to make things more than the sum of their parts. Will Sergeant in particular is a revelation -- arguably only Johnny Marr and Vini Reilly were better English guitarists from the '80s, eschewing typical guitar-wank overload showboating in favor of delicacy, shades, and inventive, unexpected melodies. More than many before or since, he plays the electric guitar as just that, electric not acoustic, dedicated to finding out what can be done with it while never using it as an excuse to bend frets. His highlights are legion, whether it's the hooky opening chime of "Rescue" or the exchanges of sound and silence in "Happy Death Men." Meanwhile, the Pattinson/De Freitas rhythm section stakes its own claim for greatness, the former's bass driving yet almost seductive, the latter's percussion constantly shifting rhythms and styles while never leaving the central beat of the song to die. "Pride" is one standout moment of many, Pattinson's high notes and De Freitas' interjections on what sound like chimes or blocks are inspired touches. Then there's McCulloch himself, and while the imagery can be cryptic, the delivery soars, even while his semi-wail conjures up, as on the nervy, edgy picture of addiction "Villiers Terrace," "People rolling round on the carpet/Mixing up the medicine." Brisk, wasting not a note, and burning with barely controlled energy, Crocodiles remains a deserved classic

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Echo & The Bunnymen - Ocean Rain (1984)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: New Wave
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© 1984-1989 WEA, Korova Records
AllMusic Review by Jason Ankeny
Channeling the lessons of the experimental Porcupine into more conventional and simple structural parameters, Ocean Rain emerges as Echo & the Bunnymen's most beautiful and memorable effort. Ornamenting Ian McCulloch's most consistently strong collection of songs to date with subdued guitar textures, sweeping string arrangements, and hauntingly evocative production, the album is dramatic and majestic; "The Killing Moon," Ocean Rain's emotional centerpiece, remains the group's unrivalled pinnacle.

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Echo & The Bunnymen - Reverberation (1990)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Pop Rock
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© 1990 Sire, Warner Bros. Records
AllMusic Review by Tim DiGravina
What's that echo you hear? One of the Bunnymen has decided to sit things out, and it's none other than the frontman himself. Reverberation is really an Echo & the Bunnymen album in title only. Ian McCulloch is out to pasture on this one, embarking on a solo career, and in his place is Noel Burke. Somehow, newcomer Burke is a great fit with the remaining Bunnymen, and the result is a true delight, even if it makes little sense in the band's discography. Realistically, Burke sounds nothing like McCulloch, as his vocals are far higher than McCulloch's deep croon. Will Sergeant could have easily gone the route that Peter Hook would go years later, when he found a Bernard Sumner sound-alike for New Order offshoot Monaco, so Sergeant is certainly a risk-taker in this sense. When Burke does affect McCulloch's tones, he sounds more like Mark Burgess of the Chameleons, and that's an interesting proposition in itself. The Burke and Sergeant team cracks out their own share of would-be classics. "Gone, Gone, Gone" and "Enlighten Me" throb with catchy glee, and "Flaming Red" paints a picture of beautiful, quiet grace. "King of Your Castle" is perhaps the only occasion where Burke overly extends his range and falters, but the song's optimism is still quite winning. Indeed, the album could qualify as Sergeant's brightest and most uplifting creation. "Flaming Red," in particular, would have been far darker with Ian McCulloch at the helm, as its music seems a close cousin to "The Killing Moon," but Burke's vocals lighten the mood into one of delicate grace. It should also be noted that original Bunnymen drummer Peter DeFreitas died in a motorcycle accident shortly before Reverberation was recorded, and future Spiritualized and Lupine Howl drummer Damon Reece ably takes his place behind the drum kit. The liner notes dedicate the album to "Pete and all who loved him." Reverberation would have been a great debut had Sergeant and bassist Les Pattinson decided to operate under a different moniker. Who knows if Sergeant thought McCulloch would someday return to the band, but it would have made more sense for these ten songs to have been released under a new band name, because whether one likes or dislikes this album, Echo & the Bunnymen doesn't exist without the distinctive voice of Ian McCulloch, and it seems rather unfair that Burke had to go up against the enigmatic legacy of McCulloch. Though it confuses the Echo & the Bunnymen catalog, Reverberation is an accomplished, charming album that most Echo & the Bunnymen fans will appreciate, if not cherish. Why Noel Burke wasn't able to hop away from his time with the Bunnymen and make his own name is a reverberating mystery of its own.

tags: echo and the bunnymen, bunny men, reverberation, 1990, flac,