First five albums (plus bonus tracks) by post-punk demigods
Exactly why The Bunnymen never went on to do what their spectacularly gobby, Pre-Raphaelite punk buccaneer of a singer promised (namely: to become the world’s biggest band) remains one of modern music’s knottiest conundrums, though the answer has always been stark-staring obvious all along; simply, they lost momentum when they most needed to maintain it.
They hit the ground running with 1980’s Crocodiles which, with its chimerical splice of low-tech psychedelia, Velvets-reminiscent otherness and punk stroppiness, pretty much nailed the post-punk ethos to the mast. A generation on, and its reputation as one of the most remarkable rock debuts is undented. A hard act to follow, for sure, but they trumped it with their undoubted high watermark. Torn between anthemic mysticism and knife-edged irony, between romantic grandeur and scathing Scouse cynicism, Heaven Up Here sounded like a landmark album back then, and time has sapped not a drop of its rare beauty. Number 184 with a bullet in the States, then straight back to oblivion. The Bunnymen were obviously deeply in love with their own mythology, but the rest of the world wasn’t so willing to be smitten.
Extending the scope of their ambition, 1983’s Porcupine contained both their purest pop moment (“The Back Of Love”) and their most fabulously self-aggrandising (“My White Devil”). Felt to be a step back at the time of its release, now sounding like a bona fide masterpiece of creative exhaustion.
Then the start of the slide. Ocean Rain (1984), despite transcendent turns like “Silver” and “Killing Moon”, too resplendently grandiose for its own good, all livid possibilities drowned deep in aquatic strings and over-sheened production. Lamely pursued by their eponymous fifth (the so-called Grey album) which, since the band themselves have practically disowned it, merits little comment. Except to say that, unlike the other four reissues and their entirely needless bonus selections, Echo And The Bunnymen is slightly improved with the inclusion of an acoustic demo of “The Game” and a highly primitive version of “Dancing Horses”.
Remember them at their best, for their first three enthralling adventures into the otherworldly swamps of Bunnydom, a run of near-flawless albums that was, in its way, as breathtaking as anything heard since The Stones in Bleed-Fingers-Exile form or Bowie circa-Diamond-Americans-Station. Do it clean, know what I mean?