Echo & The Bunnymen: Do It Clean: An Anthology 1979-1987

Two-CD anthology that covers the Liverpudlian post-punksters’ career.

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On the spectrum of post-punk, Echo & The Bunnymen sit equidistant between Joy Division and U2. Despite the adolescent miserabilism of their earliest work, on which they built an audience, lead singer Ian McCulloch was not in the throes of inescapable woe in the way Ian Curtis was.

He had ambitions, dreams – however, they weren’t 10 gallon-hatted American dreams, like Bono’s. As he says in the sleeve notes here, he always felt more at home in Brussels than New York – the Europe of Jacques Brel, the Europe imagined by David Bowie.

Kicking off with the so-so 1979 single Pictures On My Wall, it’s only with Rescue, their first WEA 7-inch that they really put out to water, propelled by a big, jagged riff designed to last the ages. Already you can sense that they have a sense of flair, drama and rock tradition that’s more Liverpudlian than Mancunian.

With Crocodiles, you feel that McCulloch is both running away from his demons and going places. Heaven Up Here, from 1981, may be their high point, the band atop their own rock mountain as others headed in a white funk direction, glorying in their refracted beam. The Cutter, with its Eastern zig-zag, was a deserved hit, while Silver, Skies Blue, Hands Untied, from Ocean Rain, sees former angst wholly replaced by strings of grandeur.

Like a lot of groups, however, they lost their way in the mid-80s, opting for a nondescript, keyboard-heavy sound that saw them descend from their temporary Heaven./o:p

David Stubbs

David Stubbs is a music, film, TV and football journalist. He has written for The Guardian, NME, The Wire and Uncut, and has written books on Jimi Hendrix, Eminem, Electronic Music and the footballer Charlie Nicholas.