soundstreamsunday #86: “Ocean Rain” by Echo and the Bunnymen

echoIt’s like they couldn’t help it, all the British bands that invented themselves in the wake of the Sex Pistols.  As hard as they tried not to, they created some of the loveliest pop music one can imagine, with smarts and restraint and pretension, lots of pretension.  In their willful endeavor to be a serious, art-y band in an evolving psych-goth-pop scene, Liverpool’s Echo and the Bunnymen were not the equal of Siouxsie and the Banshees or the Cure or even Simple Minds, but they had it in them to produce one of their era’s best records in 1984’s Ocean Rain.  As unique as it is in its genre for its use of an orchestra the album nonetheless captures the period, as romantic impulses toward grand gestures infused particularly British music with a youthful, surrealistic poetry — it didn’t always work, of course, and didn’t always need to work to be successful: if you were to ask me to name an album that summed up 1984, I’d point to, among others, Ocean Rain, even as I was a teenage metalhead.  But it’s not a perfect album.  Singer Ian McCulloch’s reach as a lyricist at times exceeds his grasp, and two of the record’s tracks (“Yo Yo Man” and “Thorn of Crowns”) threaten to bring down Ocean Rain‘s otherwise glistening pop dramas and diminish the band’s full flowering.

The title track closes the album, and “Ocean Rain” is a study in building pop ballad tension across five minutes of orchestra and guitars, with McCulloch and the band finding peaks and shifting down, delivering lyrics perfect for 80s college angst.  Echo and the Bunnymen would never be this good again, but they really are so good on Ocean Rain that nothing else compares to this jeweled and flawed masterpiece.

soundstreamsunday presents one song or live set by an artist each week, and in theory wants to be an infinite linear mix tape where the songs relate and progress as a whole. For the complete playlist, go here: soundstreamsunday archive and playlist, or check related articles by clicking on”soundstreamsunday” in the tags section.

3 thoughts on “soundstreamsunday #86: “Ocean Rain” by Echo and the Bunnymen

  1. Nice review Craig!!! Back in the early 80’s (and yes,I DO consider 84′ as “early” 80’s still!!! Lol.),I too,was falling quickly for these British Pop-bands coming out of the woodwork,as their rhymic tendencies,seemed to take an IMMEDIATE and rather FIRM hold over my listening ears!!! THIS particular song,being ONE of them!!! Lol. Listening to it again now……….Ahhhhhh,the memories it brings back for me!!! Still a TOP-NOTCH song for me to this day!!! ~Peace~

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post Craig. By far one of my favorite albums of the eighties and ever. Orchestral punk…it’s beautiful! But I have to agree with your comment on the lyrics. It does seem like McCullough sometimes goes in deeper than he can deftly handle. On the other hand, I agree with Brad that somehow those two tracks work for the album. I rarely listen to the songs in isolation, almost always the whole album. Except for the final track. Brilliant!

    Liked by 1 person


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