Big hair, raincoats and a load of camouflage chic...the post-punk era's defining...
Chris Jones 2007-08-10
Forged in the white-hot peer group pressure cooker of Liverpool’s Eric’s Club scene, Echo and The Bunnymen were part of that vanguard that went beyond punk’s three chord straightjacket to define what would be termed ‘Post Punk’. With Ian McCulloch as a former member of the legendary ‘Crucial Three’ axis that also gave the world Julian Cope’s Teardrop Explodes and Pete Wylie’s Wah! Heat, it was the Bunnymen who were first to win the contracts and gain the plaudits. To this day Crocodiles almost single-handedly defines what it meant to be young and impossibly cool on Merseyside.
Mixing punk’s stripped-down aesthetic with a love of both the Velvets and a whole host of psychedelic icons from the Doors to Love, the band had already made waves on Bill Drummond’s Zoo label with “Pictures On My Wall”. But at this point they were a three-piece with only a drum machine to back up their neo-psych vision. Enter Pete De Freitas, a one man powerhouse, perfectly matched to Les Pattinson’s indefatigable bass runs and suddenly they were ready for world domination.
Three weeks at Rockfield studios in Wales saw the group define their sound further, with Will Sergeant’s guitar joining the new wave hall of fame (alongside say, John McGeoch) in its ability to be both far-out and avoid any rock clichés at any cost. From the chiming intro of “Rescue” to the the squall of “Happy Death Men” it redefined what could be done with electricity.
On top of all this was McCulloch’s sombre, plaintive voice; a cosmic lounge style that owed plenty to Jim Morrison but also was perfect at delivering his lyrics filled with achingly romantic surrealism. “Villiers Terrace” uses such oblique poetry to give a perfect description of the hometown scene at the time. ‘There’s people rolling round on the carpet, mixing up the medicine’, indeed.
All this was aided by nascent scene-maker Drummond and Teardrops associate, Dave Balfe’s co-production as ‘the Chameleons’. Spacey enough to match the chemical intake (though McCulloch always claimed they preferred a simple bevvy), it still retained the garage aesthetic that never allowed the band to lapse into self-indulgence. Crocodiles still sounds as fresh as the day it hit the shelves. The band’s sound would become larger, grander and lusher, but everything you need to love about them is right here…