Echo and the Bunnymen: Heaven up Here (1981)

Probably the peakiest of the many peaks the Bunnymen scaled back in the Eighties…

File:EAB HeavenUpHere albumcover.jpg

I pity the Bunnymen’s debut album Crocodiles. I mean, it’s a really good debut. It’s got the swagger, it’s got the atmosphere, the tunes, the everything. And yet it cowers in the looming shadow of the follow-up.

Heaven up Here is where Ian (voice), Will (guitar), Les (bass) and Pete (drums) hit that magical stride where they are more mere band and something closer to gods. Seriously, the rhythms on this album are disgustingly brilliant.  In fact, for most of the time, the rhythms are the songs. No wonder only one single was selected off this album, the astonishingly beautiful ‘A Promise’ as it’s the only one that would make sense on the radio.  A lot of the other songs are grooves – I don’t mean endless jams or anything like that, but I mean tight, chemistry-drenched, undeniably funky things that barely pause for breath before moving on. They occasionally spiral deliriously out of control like on the title track. Sometimes they delve deep, deep into the dark (‘The Disease’). One time, everything, and I mean everything, stops in its tracks for the behemoth that is ‘Over the Wall’, a totally euphoric colossus that will push you ‘to the logical limit’. But in the end it’s all about the grooves, you know – the sound of guitar, bass and drums riffing off each other to absolutely gleeful territory. Ian’s lyrics are pure chemically-assisted poetry. When I say chemicals, I mostly mean booze.  His voice is never self-indulgent but at the same time totally unshackled. The album is dark, but like Ian says, it’s the kind of darkness where you’re beckoned to ‘celebrate this misery’. Songs like ‘Show of Strength’ and ‘All I Want’ are kinetic, elastic masterpieces, hitting rhythmic strides most bands would kill and kill again for. ‘With a Hip’ is the funkiest fucking thing ever to come out of Liverpool, and ‘No Dark Things’ a Will Sergeant masterpiece of guitars that start off duelling like swordsmen but fly up into the ether for the exhilarating finale.

This album is heavy. And light. Dark yet strident. Serious stuff, but funny with it. Find a beach. Listen to this album.

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