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"Under blue moon I saw you..."
on 21 July 2016
Blue. It's the colour that permeates this album. From the striking cover photo, which is drenched in it, to singer Ian McCulloch's metaphorical lyrics, where the colour is used to paint vivid pictures of poetical feeling. And that's the thing about this record: it's the Bunnymen's attempt to express something more than the literal & the mundane; to move the listener through a combination of a poetic language & and richly romantic music; and create something epic, moving & timeless. This they did & how! The warmth of the sound was achieved through the addition of strings - recorded in Paris - Washburn acoustic guitars & drummer Pete de Freitas' use of brushes & cymbals. In fact, McCulloch was so impressed by the finished record that, upon its release in 1984, he confidently declared it 'the greatest album ever made.' A foolish statement that left him open to ridicule. But, is it not possible that it MIGHT be the greatest album ever made? Could one seriously make that claim? We-ll, I'm afraid I can't be objective about the things I love & I do LOVE this record & here are nine reasons why:-
1. Silver - "...You're living proof of my fingertips..." McCulloch seems to be revelling in freedom & sensation, in what is an optimistic song, featuring urgent strings & washes of acoustic guitar. It was the lowest charting of the three singles.
2. Nocturnal Me - "...Ignite our dreams of starry skies..." An ode to the night? Whatever, it is a song full of surreal & dreamy imagery & must be taken in internally.
3. Crystal Days - "...Looking for hope & you hope it's me..." The shortest track on the album, it has a lovely chiming guitar but what's it about? Is it a song of optimism & hope for the future, or is it a paean to the thrill of a cocaine high?
4. The Yo Yo Man - "...You know when heaven & hell collide there are no in-betweens..." McCulloch seems to be channelling the romantic spirit of the great poets, who sought the sublime through exposure to extreme landscapes & weather. At least, that's my interpretation of a song that's difficult to pin down.
5. Thorn Of Crowns - "...I've decided to wear my thorn of crowns..." McCulloch as a martyr? Surely not! As well as a Jesus complex & stuttered lyrics about cucumbers, cauliflowers & cabbages, he yelps & cries through much of the song which has a spiky edge to it.
6. The Killing Moon - "...Fate, up against your will..." A song about love, God & pre-destiny & so achingly beautiful & romantic, that it often makes my heart swell when listening to it. It is, almost certainly, the Bunnymen's finest recording, yet it only just scraped into the top ten on its release. A huge injustice, as I think it deserved to be a massive hit! I love its Eastern vibe; its chiming guitars; and McCulloch's passionate vocal performance. He used to claim, in his usual understated manner, that it was 'the best song ever written.' I certainly think it's a contender.
7. Seven Seas - "...Stab a sorry heart with your favourite finger..." A beautiful opening line to another wonderful single! I think it's about shrugging off sadness & self-pity & embracing the freedom & adventure that life - or the 'Seven Seas, if you will - can offer us. It also boasts a fantastic guitar intro.
8. My Kingdom - "...You kill when you talk & the enemy weakens..." This song has always sounded slightly different from the rest of the album to my ears & I think it's because it is song about anger & conflict. It still boasts a fine tune, though.
9. Ocean Rain - "...All at sea again..." The title track begins quietly with the lugubrious sound of a cello & McCulloch's soft delivery of his metaphorical lyrics, then it slowly builds to become an acoustic guitar drenched, string laden, romantic masterpiece of epic proportions. When McCulloch's voice rises in pitch to cry out... "Screaming from beneath the waves!" ...I feel the hairs on the back of my neck rise, my heart leap in my chest & my spirit soar! That is what truly beautiful music can do!
This re-mastered, 25th anniversary CD, also boasts a bonus track; 'Angels & Devils,' which is a fine song, plus 'The Life At Brian's' sessions, which includes a cover of the Beatles, 'All You Need Is Love.' Also, there are two live versions of songs from the album: 'My Kingdom' & an excellent 'Ocean Rain,' but these are mere fripperies to the album itself. And to return to the earlier question: could it be the greatest album ever made? Yes!.. I believe it could & if that's not enough of a recommendation, might I suggest you ask Ian McCulloch?..