Posted by
Aug 292011

As a new wave kid in the ’80s, I probably wore holes in the first three Echo & the Bunnymen albums, drove up to NYC to see them, etc. I recently downloaded the first two albums off iTunes—and I gotta say they still hold up.

I always thought they were the heaviest of the “romantic” bands. Way heavier and more angular than The Cure, U2, etc. That drummer’s military fills are the serious backbone of why I loved these guys. And they had a lot of songs about taking LSD, which at the time made them seem mysteriously cool.

The Burt Bacharach sweater in the video not withstanding, they did know how to rock under those haircuts.


  59 Responses to “Echo”

  1. saturnismine

    That’s it?

    You grew up new wave, thought Echo were heavier than U2, and here’s the video?


    I’ll bite.

    I always thought Echo were the most psychedelic of the pink stampede, that new wave of late 70s / early 80s English haircut bands. I cut them plenty of slack as a result.

    Hearing ‘Do it Clean’ on YNMT (Yesterday’s Now Music Today, a great program on WXPN, before it became the grossest, coffee shop snob, Michaela Majoun worshiping bastion of revisionist ‘you-heard-it-hear-first’ elitism on the planet) made it seem like the 80s were going to be cool.

    I saw them at the Keswick Theater last spring (Easter Sunday, 2010, I believe).

    Boy oh boy was Ian McCullough surly. There were no transitions from song to song. Just a full stop after each one, immediately punctuated by his nearly inaudible griping about the lighting (which he wanted to be almost nonexistent).

    I won a bet with my wife that night that they would play Do It Clean as the encore. They did. And it was the only really electric moment of the set.

  2. misterioso

    The only Echo album I own is Ocean Rain which I bought at some point more out of sense of obligation than enthusiasm. It has a few fine songs but not quite enough to make a whole album’s worth, and, as for the production, well, it isn’t the most dated I can imagine, at least.

  3. tonyola

    Echo and the Bunnymen were a band who I enjoyed listening to when they came on the radio, but I never felt compelled to check out their albums. Maybe it’s time to do so. To me, they fell in the middle ground between arty weirdness like Visage and Killing Joke and synthpopsters like Duran Duran and A Flock of Seagulls. I do have an extended version of “Lips Like Sugar” in my collection and it’s a pleasant song.

  4. machinery

    Once they lost that drummer (he died I believe) the band was never the same. I did see them in college with a different drummer and was really disappointed. And, yes, I think they were way heavier than U2. I mean they had a drummer and bass player who could acutally play.

  5. saturnismine

    I wasn’t asking if you actually think they’re heavier than U2. You made clear in your blurb that you do.

    I was summarizing the contents of your blurb and asking you if that’s all there is.

    Isn’t there a question you’d like us to answer about Echo? Something to get the discussion going?

  6. ladymisskirroyale

    I love Echo and the Bunnymen on many levels and have yet to hear a song of theirs that I don’t like.

    I entered the Bunny cannon late in their career a la “Lips Like Sugar.” I was a naive 20-something who dragged my brother to the show and felt very hip wearing my red Chuck Taylors, white cargo pants and red crop tee. As soon as I walked into that sea of black angst I realized my error. But not as much as the mothers of those preteen girls who had to ask their daughters not to look when Ian McC did his best Jim Morrison act and made wild love to the microphone stand. Definitely a show to remember.

  7. hrrundivbakshi

    Not sure I can recall you ever starting any threads “to get the discussion going,” Sat.

  8. BigSteve

    I remember liking Crocodiles a lot, but as the band got bigger the singer developed this bellowing singing style that I found (and find) tiresome.

  9. machinery

    yeah, I was thinking it sounded kinda dick-ish too.

  10. Years ago, when our crew was first getting to know her, I supposedly said, in the presence of the future Mrs. andyr, that Echo and the Bunnymen were a “chick band.” I don’t recall saying this, but 25 years later, Mrs. andyr hasn’t let me forget it. I probably said that.

    I had a close friend and musical ally in college (we’re still tight) who got into that first album. I thought it was OK, but too strident, too much. And the singer had one of those crooning Bowie deliveries that totally bummed me out way back when. Crocodiles sounded pretty good and energetic, but I backed off because it was verging into that Big ’80s Sound that I’d already constructed sandbags to fend off.

    A couple of years passed, bringing me back to the time when I first met the future Mrs. andyr. That white and gray album, with “The Cutter” and “The Back of Love” was all the rage among the slightly younger generation. I kind of liked those songs. The over-the-top delivery of those psychedelic-cum-U2-styled songs was hard to deny. Publicly, however, I am alleged to have referred to them as a “chick band.” I knew that the young machinery way way into them at this time, too. The young machinery was ACES in my book, but I figured part of the reason he’d sold himself on that band was to attract women. Why I didn’t simply adopt this stance that he may or may not have been taking is one of life’s mysteries. I was too proud to adopt any “chick band.” Geez, I’ll have to remind my boys not to be so proud in the coming years.

    Anyhow, about a year ago the once-future-and-long-since-present Mrs. andyr, an excellent person and friend in her own right, teased me about this “chick band” comment. Around the same time E. Pluribus Gergely and I were hanging out really late at night, when we admitted that we liked “The Cutter” and “The Back of Love.” The next day I downloaded those 2 songs and “Do It Clean.” They’re really great, over-the-top songs. Beyond those three songs I still don’t think I’m “anthemic” enough to want to hear more in one sitting, but every once in a while, when no one else is around, I can crank up those 3 songs and set my inner pouffy hair and eyeliner-self free.

  11. ladymisskirroyale

    There needs to be an Ian McCulloch Facebook Ap: it McCullochs a photo of you with puffy hair and eyeliner.

  12. jeangray

    Back in the day, U2 used to be the opening act for Echo & the Bunnymen.

  13. machinery

    Ha! Funny post, Mr Mod, and I generally agree with a lot of the over-the-top vocal criticism, which I generally dislike. But that first album deserves a critical upgrade, in light of a lot of bands that came afterwards. I can hear their sound in Interpol, Wire and the like. Crocodiles is pretty taught and angular, bass and drum driven, and most of the songs clock in at a respectable 2.5 minutes, I think.

  14. cherguevara

    I was in a band that covered “The Killing Moon,” and while I like Ocean Rain a lot, I find that song dull. If I was ever going to fall asleep while playing the drums, it would be playing that. However, having said that, the song is a bit like “Heroes” – if you don’t have an engaging singer, it’s not gonna work, and we didn’t, so it didn’t.

    Synchronously, I went through a spell of listening to Ocean Rain about a week ago and one place where I thought things fell apart a lot was in the guitar solos. Mostly the solos are scale-wise doodling, repeating notes in triplets and not really having any kind of melody or arc to them. I really like EATB, but maybe they should’ve spent a few extra minutes on those solos.

  15. shawnkilroy

    they’re ok in my book.
    Killing Moon is their only excellent tune in my opinion.
    there are plenty of other good E&TB songs, but that’s my favorite and not just by a little bit.
    i like:
    The Church
    The Cure
    Love & Rockets
    Tears For Fears
    Modern English
    The Mighty Lemon Drops
    Yhe Romantics
    The Psychadelic Furs &
    The Thompson Twins
    all more than i like Echo & The Bunnymen

  16. I think I speak for all of RTH in saying that we are really proud of all the hard work and thought that over the years you have put into wrapping your head around bands with cute guys with good hair.

  17. Ian McCullough did an Echo album in 2009 called The Fountain, which was actually fairly decent all the way through. Think I Need It Too is a nice retro-sounding song that I stuck on a few mixes and people (admittedly older people) who heard it generally loved it. Here he is on the Jools Holland show.

  18. In their heyday, the Bunnymen put on remarkably great shows. Looking back I kind of liken their golden age to an early 80’s version of how Mr. Mod views the Byrds. Viewed through that prism, their best of record is their best of, Songs to Learn and Sing, much like the Byrds best record, Greatest Hits. Which is not to say there is not much to enjoy of the album tracks that didn’t make it onto the Best of, there are. I wonder why some who like the Bowie/Ferry/Morrison delivery have a problem with McCollough’s singing. I wonder why certain over-the-top romanticism gets a pass with some bands and not with others. I wonder if I have it in me to get into a defense of pre-Starfish records by the Church without publicly humiliating myself.

  19. hrrundivbakshi

    Machinery, there were a lot of bands you were into that opened my eyes back in the day — I mean a LOT of them. Echo &the Bunnymen wasn’t one of them. I never understood what you saw in the posing, the goth/jangle, the faux-trippiness (or was it real trippiness that seemed fake for some reason? Even worse!)

    Just give me “Birds Fly (a Whisper to a Scream)” by the Icicle Works and be done with it. I always kind of liked that song. They seemed to do E&tB in a poppier vein that I appreciated more.

  20. misterioso

    I have no doubt that the rise of U2 from earnest little band from Dublin to earnest mega-humongo-behemoth band galls Echo fans, perhaps the same way it must have galled fans of, say, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes to see the ascent of the Beatles or fans of Ramblin’ Jack Elliott to see the rise of Bob Dylan. Then there is the case of The Flying Burrito Brothers and (The) Eagles. Sometimes it is a triumph of genius over talent; sometimes it is a triumph of marketing over talent; sometimes it is just luck.

  21. hrrundivbakshi

    Most of the time it’s luck. Mostly.

  22. misterioso

    This may be the subject of a thread some day: but although they are probably not in any way the worst of a bad lot, there is something about The Thompson Twins that epitomizes everything I hate about a certain period and the abject failure of “new wave.”

  23. misterioso

    Could be. In the case of U2 and Echo, I would argue it is all three.

  24. I too find nothing remotely likeable about the Thompson Twins. Is anyone even good looking in that band?

  25. BigSteve

    Why would they need to be defended?

  26. Because we’re in the Halls of Rock? Most likely Tvox is suggesting that some grump like myself has already turned my nose up to a mere mention of the Church. I’m a kinder, gentler Mr. Moderator, folks. Isn’t that clear by now?

  27. misterioso

    I don’t know, really. I guess the guy whom I remember as the lead singer/guitarist was good looking.

  28. BigSteve

    I don’t know, Hold Me Now is a fine little slice of radio pop if you ask me. And I wouldn’t have thought of them as new wave. To me they’re the 80s — big hair and shoulder pads and DX-7’s.

  29. misterioso

    Bleh to your first point and to your second: yes, exactly, and perhaps therein lies the problem.

  30. hrrundivbakshi

    Yeah, “Hold Me Now” was a good little song. They had one or two other radio hits that I thought were okay.

  31. hrrundivbakshi

    Hey, Machinery — why is anything by Echo better than this?

  32. saturnismine

    Sorry, mac.

    I was trying to give you an opportunity to perhaps frame the thread a little more.

    HVB, I’ll admit I haven’t made a habit out of starting threads here on RTH, but when I’ve been able to do so, I have started a handful of them.

    And they’ve always contained questions to get the discussion going.

    Didn’t mean any disrespect, mac. Seriously.

  33. saturnismine

    Compared to the moody, poetic Echo vibe, this is a going-through-the-motions-of-putting-forth-what-we-think-pop-music-ought-to-sound-like-in-1982 kind of thing, albeit an enthusiastic one.

  34. tonyola

    I like a lot of new wave and synth pop, and I still find The Thompson Twins to be one of the less-memorable artists of the period. However, they are responsible for one great sin – their cheezoid 1985 cover of the Beatles’ “Revolution”.

  35. misterioso

    Wow. How could I have forgotten/repressed the memory of that?

  36. saturnismine

    It could make you moody and surly, too!

    He was wearing an army jacket the night we saw him.

    he had gloves on with the fingers cut out.

    one of them his hands constantly draped over the mic, and held a cigarette.

    he would occasionally spout smoke out of his mouth and nose in the middle of songs.

    he was like the entrance to an amusement park ride in this way.

    if it is possible to hide behind a mic stand (you have to be skinny and you have to have a knack for making yourself invisible before large crowds), he did it that night.

    maybe this app could include all of these features.

  37. cherguevara

    You like Kajagoogoo more than E&TB? Come on, now. They only had one song, and sad to say, I had that album so I know. Unless you want to hear some technically interesting but bad taste 80’s bass playing, there’s not much there. I probably still have that album, don’t make me dig it out.

  38. saturnismine

    let’s start a “bitter echo fans need to get over it: U2 had more talent, better luck, and genius” FB group.

  39. I never listened to Echo during their heyday, because their sound was exactly the opposite of what appealed to me. Synths; trebly, chorus soaked guitars (whether it’s accurate or not, that guitar tone is what I think solid state amps sound like); analy retentive rhythms; vocal posing, etc. I’ve lightened up quite a bit as the years have gone on and now I like them more than most bands with a sound that is distinctly from that era. I only own their greatest hits but I think the songs on that are pretty good to great.

    Hold Me Now by the Thompson Twins, on the other hand, is a stone cold turd.

  40. i once looked on in disbelief as a friend was physically removed from chicago’s cabaret metro by owner joe shanahan for loudly mocking the church’s “under the milky way” video. we had come to hear another friend’s industrial band that was incongruently on the same bill as a record release party for the church (label reps in attendance, baskets of fun-size milky ways on the bars), and apparently shanahan couldn’t handle the truth.

  41. saturnismine

    your description of their guitar sound is accurate, cdm. i’m not a fan.

    I was never a fan of their compressed, machine-like drum sound either. However, although it was kind of amazing to see them play live for this reason; I marveled at how closely their sound crew came to achieving that sound in a live setting. The drummer was not a hard hitter at all, which I imagine is the way it has to be to get that sound. And speaking of the drummer and his playing, over what I have heard of the Echo oeuvre, his approach is kind of the same-ish on every song, isn’t it? At least, I don’t think it’s as as varied as, oh I dunno, Larry Mullen’s approach, for example.

  42. As the day goes on I’m really getting steamed at BigSteve for mentioning that Thompson Twins song title and sparking my memory of that tune. I’d completely blocked out everything about their music other than the fact that I hated it. Now I’ve had that tune buzzing around my skull. I owe you one, BigSteve.

  43. I did see them at the TLA with Psychedelic Furs on a reunion tour about 10 years ago (Sat, were you there? I know I ran into you at some TLA show around that time). I thought they were great live and the heavy fog and stark white flood lights back lighting the band was a cool effect.

  44. saturnismine

    I remember it!

    I hope I was nice to you.

    I probably wasn’t.

    I haven’t chosen to focus on that show, because, honestly, I don’t remember much of it. I remember walking by there with a friend who worked for various clubs / booking agencies, etc., and we decided to pop in on a whim and may not have stayed on the floor for very long.

    We were certainly up to no good.

    This ^^^ would be a good description of most Thursday >>> Sunday nights from ages 16 >>> 35.

  45. I only know Echo & The Bunnymen as the puchline in The Young Ones

    Ric: I’m going to write a letter to the lead singer of Echo And The Bunnymen….”Dear Echo”

    I always assumed they would only appeal to people who looked and acted like Ric from The Young Ones (I was more of a Neil)

  46. You were quite nice actually. Polite, friendly, good eye contact, reasonably well groomed…

  47. BigSteve

    So that’s what that means.

  48. First thing: No way Echo was the most acid-soaked band of the era. That would be Julian Cope’s Teardrop Explodes.

    Second thing: Oh, 2000Man, what a terrible list. I have spent a lot of time this year listing to someone’s discarded 80’s vinyl and Kagagoogoo, The Thompson Twins, Love & Rockets, Modern English, OMD (maybe more) don’t even approach Echo.

    These guys were a standard on our college radio playlists. Definitely heavy with a bit of Doors and a bit of U2 and a murky, underground quality. It all worked back then and most of it still works for me now. Their greatest hits, Songs to Learn and Sing , is nearly a perfect 10 song Greatest Hits (cut off “Dancing Horses”). Right there with the Squeeze GH Singles: 45’s and Under.

  49. machinery

    no worries. all in good fun.

  50. machinery

    Uggh hrrundiv. that song is crap.

  51. machinery

    Two guitars, bass and drums. Out of all the other bands mentioned (with the exception of U2) Echo was always a real band to me. Actually when the added the synths, they started to lose me.

  52. That’s got a lot of reverb, delay, and pounding drums, but Echo and the Bunnymen had some tight rhythms from the guitars as well as the drums. Plus, just the fact that I broke down and watched an Icicle Works video bums me out more than BigSteve placing that Thompson Twins track in my head. What’s becoming of my perfect rock world?

  53. ladymisskirroyale

    The best part of “The Killing Moon” is his voice – that sob gets me every time.

  54. ladymisskirroyale

    I had TWO copies of “Into the Gap.” Probably haven’t listened to it since 1988 or so – will need to listen and determine if it stood the test of time. I’m sorting of guessing it didn’t.

  55. ladymisskirroyale

    1 song. Only one song. The Bunnymen had several really good ones. That’s a big difference.

  56. ladymisskirroyale

    Actually, I’ll take Love and Rockets (at least the first few albums) over those of Echo et al. However, EatBM (wow! That’s Echo and the Bunnymen but I don’t know if their reps were aware of that acronym) has the better Greatest Hits compilation.

  57. hrrundivbakshi

    That’s an interesting comment, Sat — and no, I don’t mean that in a snarky way. I ask a sincere question: is it better to write music that you think ought to be popular while still being (presumably) “good” — or is it better to be moody and poetic?

    I’m no Icicle Works fan, but if the knock on them is that they weren’t moody or poetic enough, and were too fixated on writing catchy tunes in a form that captured the zeitgeist of the day… Maybe I *am* a fan!

    BTW, bonus points to me for being the first Townsman to actually use the term “zeitgeist” in the hall — and a big +1 for using it to describe the Icicle Works!

  58. shawnkilroy

    add Level 42 to my list.

  59. shawnkilroy

    in all honesty, i don’t like Kajagoogoo more than Echo. Or Level 42, or OMD, or Naked Eyes. but they are in the same realm for me. Fair, with a couple of good tunes.

Lost Password?

twitter facebook youtube