What Are You Going To Do With Your Life?
By: Eric G.
The chances that Echo & The Bunnymen would record another album together were slim to none just a few years ago, but the band resurfaced in 1997 triumphantly with Evergreen and defied all the forces against them. The original quartet released its final effort back in 1987, the lackluster Echo & The Bunnymen. Drummer Pete DeFrietas died in a freak motorcycle accident putting what seemed like the final nail in the Bunnymen’s coffin. Ian McCulloch did the expected thing and went solo, but guitarist Will Sergeant and bassist Les Pattinson regrouped with a new lead singer and drummer, suspiciously calling it Echo & The Bunnymen. McCulloch was rightfully infuriated and fans just ignored the sad attempt to hold onto the name. The resulting record, Reverberation, really wasn’t that bad, but it wasn’t Echo & The Bunnymen and Sergeant and Pattinson should have known better.
The mid-nineties saw McCulloch and Sergeant bury the hatchet and regroup under the moniker Electrafixion, which released an album of decent yet half-baked modern rock songs. Since McCulloch and Sergeant were writing together again the idea of reforming the Bunnymen with Pattinson didn’t seem unreasonable, but they were reluctant to tamper with a legend of their own creation (despite the whole Reverberation fiasco). London Records released Evergreen, and the band was welcome back with open arms. The album revealed a more graceful and laid back band. The spark was there, and Evergreen shot down any doubts that the band had nothing left to say. It’s rare for a band to regroup and put out music that pushes forward without somehow casting a shameful shadow over its prior accomplishments. Evergreen stamped out the bum note of the 1987 album as well as the forgettable 1990 incarnation.
Following the success of Evergreen, the Bunnymen are back again with What Are You Going To Do With your Life?- an ironic statement from a band that’s twenty years into its career. Les Pattinson only plays on the closing track, “Fools Like Us”, because family commitments prevented any further involvement, so it’s just McCulloch and Sergeant again. Some think it’s strange for them to continue to use the Bunnymen name, but the way things have evolved it only seems right. The new record is the most introspective and atmospheric music the Bunnymen have made since Ocean Rain, and it strikes a much lighter note than Evergreen, building around McCulloch’s acoustic guitar. The music is markedly personal, but McCulloch’s style is grandiose which combines well with Sergeant’s chiming guitars and the sweeping orchestral arrangements.
The title track opens the record with a poignancy only McCulloch’s vocal inflection could pull off: “I’d let the light back in again/and walk you to the tunnel’s end/I’ll be yours and maybe then/you’ll be mine.” The first single, “Rust”, blends McCulloch’s child-like observations with swirls of Sergeant’s melodic guitars in a mid-tempo sway, recalling the band’s heyday. The band no longer seems hesitant about its past. McCulloch has never been one to shy away from his ego, and it pours out in his delivery, which is a natural combination of the best aspects of Jim Morrison, Bono, and John Lennon. The meloncholia that has always lingered around the Bunnymen’s music suffuses this record, but the edgy guitar riffs have been replaced with a gentle wash of intimacy and serenity. The band may be older, and the songs may be slower, but the Bunnymen have never sounded better.