Echo & The Bunnymen have released the vinyl reissues of their first four albums (‘Crocodiles’, ‘Heaven Up Here’, ‘Porcupine’ and ‘Ocean Rain’) on heavyweight black vinyl and limited-edition coloured vinyl. This is the first time the albums have been available on vinyl since their initial release in 1980, 1981, 1983 and 1984 respectively.

ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN were formed in Liverpool in ’78 with Ian McCulloch on vocals and rhythm guitar, Will Sergeant on lead guitar and Les Pattinson on bass. They were soon joined by Pete De Freitas on drums and the rest, as they say, is history.

After releasing their 7” single ‘Pictures on My Wall’ on Zoo Records in ’79. ‘Pictures on My Wall’ would appear on their debut album ‘Crocodiles’ in 1980. The Release saw the band quickly gain a reputation amongst the post-punk bands, ‘Crocodiles’ also got great press which was an oddity at the time. The album has a great energy and Sergent’s guitar clash still sounds fantastic from opener ‘Going Up’ right through to jolting ‘Happy Death Men’ that closed the album’s ten tracks. There is a spark as the band thumped out tracks like ‘All That Jazz’ with its distorted guitar and ratatat military drum beat. the high points of the album were probably ‘Rescue’ which still sounds fresh to this day Forty years on! it has stood the test of time.

I checked through my collection and the albums got the special CD treatment for their 25th Birthday but never a vinyl reproduction until now that is. ‘Crocodiles’ had the classic Bunnymen style and swagger that’s still the band’s heartbeat today. Youthful enthusiasm.

The band followed the album with the release of the ‘Shine So Hard’ EP in 1981, recorded live at the Pavilion Gardens in Buxton, before releasing their second studio album ‘Heaven Up Here’ in the same year. It went Top 10, winning the 1981 NME Best Album award in the process. The growing confidence and probably the band technical proficiency meant they could be more adventurous with the sound of the songs and from the off, ‘Show Of Strength’ was more complex rhythmically. Take nothing away from the band’s debut but this was certainly a step forward. The band also managed to pull off having the record produced by Hugh Jones. ‘Over The Wall’ was an altogether much darker song with the deep synth sounds leading the way. I always thought of the band as a very rhythmical band and often the drums and bass would lead the track none more so than the title track where Phil De Freitas was on fire driving the rest of the band to weave some musical magic.

The band really went overground in 1983 with the release of their third album ‘Porcupine’, produced by Ian Broudie. ‘Porcupine’ provided their best chart performances, with ‘The Cutter’ reaching #8 in the singles charts and Porcupine finishing #2 in the album charts before being certified Gold. Tracks like ‘The Cutter’, ‘Back Of Love’ truly defined the band’s style and became signature tunes and remain staples of their live set to this day. It’s the hits from ‘Porcupine’ mixing the band’s post-punk and love of Bowie the band was stretching themselves to the max making song arrangments their peers weren’t. It was melancholic pop at its best. There were bleak arrangements created with synths and samples that were so exciting. I love the rush I had from listening to ‘Clay’ back in the mid-80s and I still got that same feeling today with McCullochs unique and instantly recognisable vocals these rereleases on vinyl are like a breath of fresh air and still sound fantastic. I’ll admit I’d not played these albums in their entirety for a few years.

1984 brought the fourth studio album ‘Ocean Rain’, regarded by many as the band’s classic-sounding record (with the strings). Recorded in Liverpool and Paris, the band used a 35-piece orchestra with award-winning composer Adam Peters scoring the strings. Something the band did better than any of their contemporaries. The cover art is the stunning Carnglaze Caverns in Cornwall that were taken by photographer Brian Griffin, (who also shot their three previous album covers). ‘Ocean Rain’ was considered by many to be the record the band was building up to from their debut only a few years earlier, (to be fair four really strong albums in four years, not something that happens often if at all these days) this was where they wanted to be and had finally arrived at the top table with an album to challenge any other band making music in the mid-80s.

The use of strings made the band stand out and do it better than any of their contemporaries the main difference between The Bunnymen was they had the songs to go with the style and from the off ‘Silver’ was a great lead single to showcase what they were all about. It still sounds big with the strings punching in. Two more big singles were released from the album after ‘Silver’. ‘Seven Seas’ and the anthemic ‘The Killing Moon’, (which reached #9 in the UK singles chart) and gives you goosebumps, even to this day it’s a song I can never tire of hearing.

It’s hard to believe it’s forty years give or take that these albums came out. They’re sonically timeless albums and it’s the supporting cast of musicians that helped make the Bunnymen the band they were, from the strings to the talents of the likes of Ian Brodie and Johns bringing something different to their respective albums. The videos were creative as well from ‘The Killing moon’ to the striking ‘Seven Seas’ a time when MTV was everything and these videos burnt their mark onto a young impressionable kid’s brain. Hearing these records again in their entirety without bells and whistles added but keeping it as originally intended with just a classic polish and rerelease on 180gm is perfect.

Anyone who remembers the 80s alternative pop/rock scene of Icicle Works, Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes, Early U2, Spear Of Destiny, and Waterboys to name a few; will look back fondly at these four albums and nod quietly to themselves and remember how bloody good they were/are. Indulge yourself in the creative, early period of one of England’s finest bands from the 80s. When bands were left to grow and develop – something that’s very clear on these four LPs which goes to show how rich our musical heritage is and how damn good Echo And The Bunnymen are. Replace your old copies or catch up on some classic albums.

Buy the albums Here

Author: Dom Daley