Favorites: Heaven Up Here



Like much of my early musical education, I discovered Echo and the Bunnymen while watching MTV’s “120 Minutes” and their silly band name and possibly sillier coifs stuck in my mind until I eventually purchased “Ocean Rain” at a Dallas record store during a family shopping trip; the same day I bought Sonic Youth’s “A Thousand Leaves” and Sugar’s “Copper Blue”.  I quickly became so obsessed with that album that I greedily snatched up anything else I could find by the band, and their first five albums are essential.  But “Heaven Up Here” is tops.


Ian McCullough’s vocals have often been compared to Jim Morrison’s, and considering that Ian Curtis was also a big fan, he seems a particularly strange touchstone for post-punk Ians.  But as this was a style of music that was theatrical, and at times skirting histrionic, it sort of makes some sense.  The post-punk bands seemed to take the tortured artist template to an extreme, possibly giving way to the misuse of form utilized by emo bands in much the same manner that Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder’s angsty howls were boringly homogenized by Scott Stapp and his minions.  Misappropriation shouldn’t devalue this music though. 


The opening three songs on this album rival in intensity anything released under the post-punk banner, with “Over the Wall” continuing to astound me everytime I listen to it.  Things turn exceptionally dark during the gothic center of the album, with the brief but wrenching “The Disease” followed by the epic “All My Colours”, the two songs which seem to encapsulate the feeling of the album artwork.  I’m a big fan of bands who maintain a consistent artwork aesthetic (The Smiths and Joy Division are two other prime examples), and few bands had artwork as evocative and successfully simple as Echo and the Bunnymen. 


Any cursory listen to an Echo and the Bunnymen live bootleg (or any of the live videos below) is proof that this was one of the most thrilling live acts of the ’80s and were actually more comfortable and adept in that setting than U2, despite all the empty poses Bono has made to the contrary.  Arena rock for people who don’t like people. 

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