Friday, October 9, 2009

471. Heaven Up here- By nobody actually named echo and precisely no actual bunnymen.

Album: Heaven up Here.

Artist: Echo and the Bunnymen.

Year: 1981

Genre: Ooooh, I’d be tempted to say post punk if I only knew what that meant.


1. Show of Strength

2. With a Hip

3. Over the Wall

4. It Was a Pleasure

5. Promise

6. Heaven up Here

7. Disease

8. All My Colours

9. No Dark Things

10. Turquoise Days

11. All I Want

Echo and the Bunnymen have probably the most interesting name in the countdown so far. It’s made more interesting when you realise that none of them is named Echo and few, if any, of the members are rabbits. It’s just one of those great names that goes no way towards describing the kind of music they play.

Speaking of going no way to describing their music, that’s probably the distance I’ll get when I try now. Heaven up here is doom-laden pop with distinctive rhythms and extravagant guitar flourishes. See? No help at all. But then I defy you to do better.

E and the BM are a talented lot who are more about albums than hit singles. They don’t really do catchy tunes. You won’t find yourself walking down the street humming one of their anthems or spot one of their songs on a Pop Idol audition. The album only produced one single which didn’t break the UK Top 40. But Heaven Up Here works as a great album of material. It’s a fantastic listen from start to finish due mainly to the fact that the band cram so much into the individual tracks.

At every moment in an E and the BM song every member of the band is doing something interesting. The two guitarists are firing off riffs and hooks left right and centre (literally, if you listen in stereo), the bass player refuses to content himself with holding down a simple melody line and the drummer is constantly flinging out fills and flourishes. The overall effect sounds like a bunch of guys trying to earn first place in a “who can be more interesting” competition. It’s a wonder they managed to keep the music together and the whole thing doesn’t just descend into mindless noodling.

I’ve seen Echo and the Bunnymen described as Post-Punk but if anything I’d describe them as anti-punk. The Punk ethos went against the idea of virtuoso musicianship. Anyone who knew more than four chords was viewed with suspicion and attitude was far more important than musicianship. If you separated the instruments in a sex pistols albums and focused only on the bass it would make for a very dull listen indeed. While I was listening to Heaven Up Here I found myself taking out one earphone on a regular basis to try and focus on what one person was doing at a time.

Lyrically Heaven Up Here isn’t especially cheery. My Life’s the Disease sums up the situation pretty well. The vocals are definitely the least interesting part of the album with most of Ian Mculloch’s words delivered as if he’s burdened with the weight of the entire planet. He’s not a happy camper by any stretch of the imagination. His shallow vocal range and even shallower emotional range would drag other album’s down but on Heaven Up Here there’s so much going on that his voice isn’t the focus it’s just another instrument in the mix.

Heaven Up Here is a strange release in that I recommend it, I’m glad I found it but I don’t really need to hear any of the bands other work. There’s a lot on the album that I enjoy but that doesn’t mean I want anymore of it. You really can have too much of a good thing. It’s probably not helped by the fact that they wait until track 7 to introduce much musical variation. The first six songs blend together into a fog of guitars and similar tempos. The rest of the album has more variety and if they’d mixed up the track list a bit it might make the songs in the first half a bit more distinct.

Highlight: The bass player… no wait… the drummer… no hang on it’s that guitar, no that one… no it is the bass player…wait…

Lowlight: My Life’s the disease. Perhaps your time would have been better spent looking for the cure.

Influenced by: Punk and Prog Rock, making this possibly the world’s only example of Pronk Rock.

Influenced: Rik from the Young Ones. “Then I shall write to the lead singer of echo and the bunnymen. Dear Mr Echo.”

Favourite Amazon customer review quote: “I'm happy I have bands such as Echo in my cd collection and feel a bit sorry for those who feel that kid rock and limp bizkit are alternative music. Seems the American public has little taste, see parents that's what you get for letting little Brandon and Buffy watch Jerry Springer after school and not the Discovery channel.....

-That’s a fascinating social experiment. We should get 100 American children and raise them on the discovery channel and see if they transform into echo and the Bunnymen fans. And if they do does that mean they’ll also be able to make such sweeping generalizations about an entire nation?

So is this album Heaven or have you had it up to here with it? Let me know below.

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