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Like most youngeEATB2r Americans, I had heard “The Killing Moon” by Echo & the Bunnymen a time or two, but it wasn’t until I saw Donnie Darko for the first time that I really fell in love with them. Most people my age will only refer to them as “that band in the one movie with the bunny,” but I knew there was more to them than that. Ocean Rain is the studio release from 1984 that people know the most, but Echo & the Bunnymen were on the UK Top 20 charts since 1980 with their debut album Crocodiles. You have to be a pretty big fan to know most of the music on this album, but if you like the other, more popular works of Echo, the album is certainly worth a look. With all but one album released in the 80’s hitting UK charts, it’s no wonder that the strange and unique sounds of Echo & the Bunnymen cemented them in music history.

Started in Liverpool in 1978, Echo & the Bunnymen began with only three members and a drum machine. It wasn’t until almost two years later that they found their proper drummer, Pete de Freitas. Now a fully formed band, Echo jumped in head first and began recording a number of albums year after year that gained widespread popularity and mainstream success.

By the mid 80’s they had already acquired a cult following that continued through the decades. Although they lost two members in two years, McCulloch the vocalist to a solo career and Freitas the drummer to a motorcycle accident, the band continued to produce music until they completely dismantled in 1993. By 1997, original members Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant, guitarist, regrouped and have continued to make music and tour the world to this day.

Crocodiles ’80

The first debut album, Crocodiles, was widely received and accepted by mainstream culture and is revered as one of their most brilliant works, showcasing the expert abilities of each member. The psychedelic rock feel, coupled with the strong vocal abilities of McCulloch and the over-the-top guitar skills of Sergeant helped Echo to gain instant popularity as strange and unique to their own sound. The vivid imagery in his lyrics and the changing styles and rhythms from song to song is hard to deny, attributing to some of the main elements that continue drawing people in from decade to decade. Also, the dark album cover of the members standing in a dense forest near a large, ominous tree seems to add the strange element that Echo & the Bunnymen became known for.

Heaven Up Here ’81

EATBWhile there were certainly elements of a Jim Morrison-esque sound in Crocodiles, Ian McCulloch seems to go over the top with his mimicry in their second album Heaven Up Here. Mix the Doors with any of the UK punk of the 80’s, namely the Clash, and pepper in the sounds of Joy Division, and you will get Echo & the Bunnymen circa 1981. The reverberated echos of nearly spoken word, coupled with the strong melodies and intense “noise” supplied by the occasional background guitar squeals, and a tight drum beat is what helped to put the Bunnymen on UK top 10 charts with the release of Heaven up Here. Like any good album by them, this one certainly plays around with their abilities in experimentation, whether it be effects, length of songs, electronic percussion or vocal ranges. Overall, this is the album that helped put Echo on the maps.

Porcupine ’83

It was almost two years before Echo & the Bunnymen produced their third album, Porcupine, but again they reached another UK top 10 with the song “The Cutter.” An extremely conceptual and experimental album, Porcupine starts out with an almost Middle Eastern feel and quickly transitions into the post-punk style with fast drum beats and melodic tones. The whole album retains that unique feel, experimenting with a variety of instruments and styles, but still manages to stay true to the Echo & the Bunnymen sound quality that became evident with Crocodiles. A complex album that dabbles in the minor key tonalities, Porcupine is one of the most unique but highly revered albums ever produced by the Bunnymen.

Ocean Rain ’84

Ocean Rain is by far the most well-known and recognized album produced by Echo & the Bunnymen. ReleasEATBOceanRained in   1984 and coming in at number four on the UK charts, this album included hits “The Killing Moon”, “Silver”, and “Seven Seas”. Ocean Rain attempts to return to what would be considered normalcy for the band, although normal is a relative term when discussing Echo & the Bunnymen. A large majority of the album was actually recorded with a 35 piece orchestra in Paris, before the final cuts which took place in Liverpool and Bath. Ocean Rain definitely takes a step back from the dramatic experimentations of Porcupine and slows down the melodies and drums, while softening the vocals of McCulloch and focusing on deep, entrancing lyrics and transitions. Perhaps it was this soft, melodic approach that helped Ocean Rain to gain the popularity that it saw and rocket Echo & the Bunnymen to their respective heights of musical achievements, which strangely and unfortunately ended up being relatively unprofitable.

Echo & the Bunnymen Self-Titled ’87

After Ocean Rain, manager Bill Drummond suggested that the band take time off to write separately, leaving an almost three year gap until their release of their self-titled album Echo & the Bunnymen. Again reaching number four on UEATB3K Album Charts, the self titled album was also the most successful to reach the United States of all their previously released albums. During the production of Echo & the Bunnymen, the band began breaking up, mainly centered around the celebrity status expected by McCulloch, who would leave the band directly following the albums release for his own solo career. Regardless of the popularity in the U.S., many critics claimed the self-titled album to be the most dull and vacant recording yet. Perhaps it was this dumbed-down approach to their previously experimental post-punk sound that eventually ended up reaching a much wider audience world-wide.

Reverberation ’90

Reverberation, apart from two independently released singles afterward, was the last album to be released by Echo & the Bunnymen before they disbanded in 1993. With the loss of McCulloch to his own solo career and the tragic death of drummer Pete de Freitas in a motorcycle accident, Reverberation failed to hit charts at all and the band was released from WEA records shortly after. Vocalist Noel Burke stepped in for Ian McCulloch and Damon Reece for de Freitas, but reception of the album was overall unfavorable, despite their efforts to retain their musical qualities.

While there are certainly mixed reviews on the band, as well as people who have still sadly never heard of Echo & the Bunnymen, no one can ever take away the unique sound that they brought to UK music in the 80’s and the popular cult following that they acquired within a decade. My two favorite albums will always be Crocodiles and Heaven Up Here, as they are strange but not over the top, and demonstrate the love and admiration that they had for great musicians that came before them. Echo & the Bunnymen is more than “that band in Donnie Darko”, and throughout the years have gained the recognition and appreciation that they always deserved.