Monday, October 10, 2005

Echo & The Bunnymen / Siberia / Rating 6.7

striving to turn back the clock

It’s been quite a long and serious long love affair I’ve had. I fell hard for Echo & the Bunnymen almost two decades ago. I grew up listening to a radio station (which I think at the time called WLIR) that turned me onto entire genre that was still very new to me. At the same a local record shop (Crazy Eddie) had two employees who were kind enough to write on the back of one of their bags a must buy list which come hell or high water I purchased one at a time while my mom patiently waited in the car. (Thank you Mum) I should also add employee number one* was just the most beautiful goth boy with long black hair and chiseled features while employee number 2 was a real life version of Duckie from Pretty In Pink.

I still have the list on the tattered mustard colored paper bag and this is exactly how it appears on the bag in black marker.

Light Wave:
New Order – Low Life
Ministry – With Sympathy
Colour Field – Virgins and Philistines
REM – Reckoning
Smiths – Queen is Dead
Psych Furs – Forever Now
Specials – First album
Gregory Issacs – Night Nurse

Heavier Wave:
Siouxie – Ju Ju
Sex Pistols – Never Mind
PIL – First Ed.
Bowies – Diamond Dogs
Lou Reed – Transformer
Sisters Of Mercy – First and Last
Echo & the Bunnymen – Ocean Rain

Later add ons:
Joy Division
Big Country
Depeche mode
Violent Femmes
The Cure
English Beat
Elvis Costello

These two factors (radio and record store clerks) influenced me beyond anything I can share with simple words but I can tell you this, it changed my life and shaped the person I grew up to be. Pre computer age, pre cable TV, this word of mouth was all I had. I grew up in a small suburb where nobody looked slightly counter culture. I didn’t have access to zines nor did I know at the time they really existed. I couldn’t drive to find other people like me so it was easy to feel out of place and alone. This music was an instant best friend and offered me the comfort of knowing there were people like me out in the world somewhere. I can’t explain why The Steve Miller band and the Eagles didn’t offer me the same feeling of connection but all I knew was I has finally found something that best represented me at the time.

If music can play the role of a soul mate, that was it.

This concept, my attachment to music hasn’t really changed at all since the mid 80’s. My tastes have expanded from owning 20 or 30 records to more than 4,000 and I expect that number to keep growing. I love each record differently. No two loves are the same for me. Some remind me of a certain period of time, a person I once was, a place I once lived, people in my life now gone. The variety of reason why I hold onto records is long and while I understand why most people clean house every couple of years, I can’t. I don’t feel shame in owning records that are no longer cool or were never cool in the first place; they all played a roll in building the path to the me I am in present tense.

All of this back information leads me to my feelings about the new Echo & the Bunnymen cd. The music isn’t terrible and God knows even a bad Ian McCulloch release is better than much of the new music out there but this doesn’t mean I am in love all over again.

I explained it to a friend in these terms. Anybody who has been in a very long-term romance is probably familiar with the safe rut a couple can fall into. You’re in love but it feels like there is less to discover and learn about your partner. The surprise element dwindles down like a candle just about out of wax. The sex is just ok. All of their little tricks that once wowed you are familiar and par for coarse. You love this person so the act means something and it’s nice but it doesn’t have that same honeymoon feeling of electricity and passion. I don’t want to use the word boring here but the relationship can grow to feel stale, stagnant, and predictable.

No two people will have ever have the same chemistry exchange but for me E&TB’s Siberia offers an easy to predict / more of the same approach. It sounds tired to me. I don’t hear an ounce of daring change on one single track. I could have guessed an older and more-tame Ian would write songs like these. I love Echo so I can’t hate it but I have moved past them or at least a record that sounds like a poor Xerox of their better days.

I will keep Siberia, play “Stormy Weather” when I want to be reminded that there is still some connection between us but this is the audio equivalent to a cup of coffee with an ex. You know, “it’s nice to see you again and we should do this again real soon” but in all honesty seeing them again was weird and you won’t do it again any time soon.

Why should a relationship with an artist work any differently than any other kind of relationship. Some last the test of time and some don’t. Be it growing apart over time, creative differences, a shift in maturity…any of these can factor into a fall out. It doesn’t make me hate the other person or band. I don’t respect them any less. I have simply moved on and in a different direction. I won’t say the thrill is gone but I would like to see other people.

It’s not you baby, it’s me.

The PFM review is a less personal / more professional take on the release but we come up with the same basic rating. I might have been even tougher and offered a 5 something. I wholly agree with all the PFM technical more specific thumbs down to Siberia and I am now more inclined to say it just might you dear Echo after all.

It’s definitely not just me.

* A very cool side note to this story is I have run into the goth employee several times over the past 20 years and had a chance to say thank you for changing my life, that I still own every one of those records, and that he will forever remain classic crush material. If that doesn't make you record clerks out there understand your influence and potential power, I don't know what will, ha!