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What's new in iJamming!...
Tue, Sep 30, 2003
ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN: "Flowers is Echo & The Bunnymen's finest hour since Ocean Rain."
An intrigue of early 90s New York nightlife.
NEW CHAPTER now online
From the Jamming! Archives:
U2 interviewed in 1984.
"It's not U2 that's creating this great art. . .There's something that works through us to create in this way."
My immediate reaction to September 11
PART 2: Messages from friends & family overseas
PART 3: Observations & quotes from others.
PART 5: COPING - 2 weeks later
iJamming! Wino/Muso:
"New world wines are just too techno for me."
Featured albums
(Hub, Slumber Party, DJ Harry, Spearhead, The Who tribute
Albums that sound different since September 11
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Featured wine region 3:
Featured wine region 4:
iJamming! interview:
Jesse Hartman, aka LAPTOP
"Every New York band knows the meaning of failure"
MIX Albums:
Who, what and why you should bother (DB, Spooky, Jody, RSW, Bad Boy Bill)
FEATURED Wines (Langlois Cremant de Loire, Honig Sauvignon Blanc, Campbell's Muscat, Brumont Gros Manseng, Dr Frank Gewürtztraminer, Daubree CoteRotie, Dry Creek Chenin Blanc, Mas Saint Laurent Picpoul, Quivira Dry Creek)
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From the Keith Moon archives:
the JEFF BECK interview .
From Homework to the Disco:
grows up and dumbs down
The iJAMMING! chat:

"If I was asked why Sniffin' Glue was so important, it was the way we conducted ourselves, the style of it, just the attitude. It had attitude in abundance didn't it?"
The Return of Shoegazing:
DOVES take New York by swarm
Forgotten Classics:
THE CHILLS: Brave Words
THE iJAMMING! Book Review:
SNIFFIN' GLUE: The Essential Punk Accessory
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From the JAMMING! archives: PAUL WELLER ON POP
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From the JAMMING! archives: ALTERNATIVE TV
interviewed in 1978
Fran Healy explains why "you cannot own a song." (And why Liam Gallagher "is going to turn into a really great songwriter.")
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From the JAMMING! archives: The Story That Spawned Creation
Featured vine:
Finally, a worthy rival to Chardonnay.
The iJAMMING! interview:
"Once you've had your go, what-ever it may be, they want you to piss off, and they can't bear it if you come back, they can't bear it."
They love rock'n'roll but they don't want to deal with the hassle
From the JAMMING! archives: RAYMONDE in 1985
The full iJamming! Contents
FLOWERS take root

Continued from Part 2.
Surprising though it may be to hear, but Flowers is Echo & The Bunnymen's finest hour since Ocean Rain. I repeat, Flowers is Echo & The Bunnymen's finest hour since Ocean Rain.

You didn't expect that, did you? I didn't either. And it might not be immediately apparent should you decide to go buy it on this recommendation. For, as with many a good underground rock album, Flowers takes some warming to. In other words there's no 'Cutter' here, no 'Lips Like Sugar,' no 'Silver' or 'The Killing Moon,' in other words nothing that shouts "classic" on first listen. The tempo is mid-paced and restrained throughout, as befitting R.E.M. On an unhurried day, and without major label budgets, the recordings are simplistic and pure, acoustic guitars forming a solid foundation over which Will Sergeant, in especially fine form, adds all manner of enticing electric arrangements. The rhythm section rightly stays in the background - no blustery attempts at de Freitas like paradiddles from Vincent Jamieson, no Pattinson-like melodic runs from Ceri James. As for Ian McCulloch, a decade or more of cocaine abuse has clearly taken its toll - we no longer hear the operatic shrills that rendered 'Heaven Up Here,' 'My Kingdom' and others so impressive - but in its middle-aged mellowness, it remains reassuringly distinct.

The Bunnymen we once knew and loved rode to glory on youthful arrogance, on a self-centered sense of purpose, and of course on Mac the Mouth's cocky press quotes. That's all gone now, along with the acclaim and popularity that justified the confidence.

And Mac's lyrics have suddenly become painfully reflective, almost maudlin in their admission of defeat. It's easy to read too much into a songwriter's state of mind, but Mac was always one to sing about himself and his sense of purpose, and the somber mood surrounding Flowers is too consistent to be mere coincidence.

Take the opening song. It's entitled 'King of Kings' in what initially appears to be a typically grandiose comeback statement, but Mac quickly turns the pronouncement on its head, confessing to "wearing broken wings, I've lost my crown." On the subsequent 'SuperMellowMan' the singer notes that he has "Never felt so lost and lonely." 'Hide and Seek' contains the plea, "Help me get my feet back on the ground." There's a brief moment of happiness with a lover on 'Make Me Shine', but 'It's Alright' indicates that it's not -"Wished I'd never said what I said," - after which the beautifully melodic 'Buried Alive' finds a middle-aged Mac knocking at death's door, admitting "I don't wanna believe that life is just to die."

Then comes the title track 'Flowers,' on which the mood dips yet lower, the backing strips away to ballad level, and Mac toasts his failures like a drunkard at last call. "Here's to all the things we'll never, here's to all we could have done." Then Will Sergeant's guitar lines spiral upwards, tucking in sweetly behind the chorus, and Mac makes one final reach for the fortissimo that used to come so easily, as he really pours it out: "I, as it came undone, knew that I'd lost everything, everything I'd won."

On 'Flowers,' you get the feeling Mac is so far under the waves that he's drowning in his own self-pity. But in admitting to it, and especially given Will's deftly and sparsely delivered guitar lines, he's offered up Echo and the Bunnymen's greatest spiritual in seventeen years.

Photo of Mac in Fuji from the Echo & The Bunnymen web site

In some ways, 'Flowers' can be seen as a counterpart to the song 'Ocean Rain,' of which Flaming Lips singing Wayne Coyne in an introduction to the box set rightly isolates Mac's final, operatic line "Screaming from beneath the waves," as "proof that the inner struggle, though unwinnable, is the only fight worth fighting." Except that on 'Flowers,' Mac is no longer screaming, and you get the feeling he's so far under the waves that he's drowning in his own self-pity. But in admitting to it, and especially given Will's deftly and sparsely delivered guitar lines, he's offered up Echo and the Bunnymen's greatest spiritual in seventeen years.

Flowers the album could get no more maudlin after 'Flowers' the song, and it doesn't attempt to. Though the lyrics remain full of self-doubt ("How do you stop yourself from falling apart and going under?" "Down the river my life flows, took another wrong turning,") and arrangements remain simple, the beat picks up considerably. The piercing guitar line on 'Everybody Knows' recalls 'My Kingdom'; the intro to 'Life Goes On' heads back to 'Day Tripper'-era Beatles; and that to 'An Eternity Burns' further back still, to surf-style garage bands. Flowers ends with 'Burn For Me,' an overly-conscious attempt at a closing ballad, the final lyrics "One night, your sea will melt into my ocean" reminiscent of a former album's final statement. But it's no 'Ocean Rain' and to my mind, the title track 'Flowers' fulfills its duty so much better. 'Burn For Me' is actually the album's only weak moment, but coming so late in proceedings, it doesn't matter. They've already made their point.

Who thought they had it in them? Backs against the wall, budgets reduced, a palpable sense that nobody might be listening, Mac and Will dug deep into their souls and made a great album. I could quibble that certain songs would have benefitted from grander production - particularly the three attempts to rock out towards the album's conclusion - but that same sparcity works in favor of the more down-tempo tracks. I could complain that Mac's voice is not what it was - again, especially on the uptempo numbers - but then, whose is? And I could complain that this band is only half of Echo & The Bunnymen, but then, we all already know that. The one thing I can not complain about is that they have messed further with the legacy. As Crystal Days clarifies, Echo & The Bunnymen can never again expect to blossom like they did in the eighties, but Flowers plants more durable seeds for the future than we had any right to expect. Evergreen? Just possibly.

No, it's not still available, and short of e-bay or second hand book stores I couldn't tell you where to get it: Never Stop, my biography of Echo & The Bunnymen written with the band's full co-operation in 1986, published late 1987 by Omnibus Press.

Tony Fletcher, September-October 2001

Further surfing:
Echo & The Bunnymen official web site
Will Sergeant's Glide
Spin Art Records
Cooking Vinyl Records
Rhino Records

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