This is, really, the album that Echo and the Bunnymen have been headed for ever since 1980’s Crocodiles, even if the band has shed all but Ian McCullough and Will Sergeant in the intervening years.
Initially, Echo and the Bunnymen revelled in a kind of moody, brilliantly incoherent synthpop that sounded something like an MTV version of the Doors. But they almost immediately began deconstructing that model, dabbling in things like orchestral pomp (on 1984’s Ocean Rain) and becoming entirely too serious by the time 1987’s eponymous album arrived.
McCullough and Sergeant’s songwriting partnership has since come unravelled, despite a well-received 2009 effort in The Fountain. McCullough takes the lead on Meteorites, due June 3, 2014 via 429 Records, with Sergeant only adding guitar parts after the initial demos were complete. The results continue along a now seemingly inexorable march toward tangible, real-world narratives. Much of the fizzy inventiveness goes with it, as McCullough remains firmly rooted in the emotional terra firma of heartache and loss.
Comparing it to their best work, then, becomes a futile exercise. Too much has changed, within the band and within McCullough’s songs. It feels like a solo album dressed up in Echo and the Bunnymen’s clothes. That said, Meteorites thrums with its own visceral power. McCullough reveals places in his heart that that old band couldn’t have imagined, and the accompanying music — as complex, varied and spiritual as anything McCullough has yet offered — only underscores his raw and engaging journey.