I think this is a really good album - and I honestly wasn't expecting to like it much.
I liked Ian McCulloch and Echo & The Bunnymen a lot in the days when I was glad to see his face among them, kissing the tortoise shell, but that was 30 years ago. I confess that I have rather lost track of them since then and the idea of a cathartic album from him about depression and other problems didn't appeal much after all this time. I was completely wrong. This is classic McCulloch, I think - thoughtful, allusive and musically very appealing. Every song here is beautifully crafted and many have a very singable tune, The Bunnymen still sound great, the production is ear-filling in a very satisfying way and even without the lyrics this would be very good, I think.
Lyrically, McCulloch hasn't lost any of his genius for somehow getting to the heart of things even when he seems to be talking rather weird nonsense. He's stabbing a sorry heart here, and no mistake, but it's done with humanity and sometimes wit so that it never gets miserable or depressing, and there are some positively anthemic moments ("Holy Moses..." for example) which have a triumphant feel even through the melancholy and despair.
I make no pretence at being an Ian McCulloch aficionado, so others may well have more insightful comparisons to make with his other work. For me, though, this is an intelligent, humane and thoroughly listenable album of ten fine songs, starting with the line "Hope? Where is the hope in me?" and culminating in the rather uplifting, redemptive New Horizons, without a duff track among them. It's genuinely a very good album from a fine, original songwriter and performer. It's one of my albums of the year so far and I think I'll be playing it for years to come.
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