How apt that 1999 should be The Year Of The Rabbit....
How apt that 1999 should be The Year Of The Rabbit. But could even the most astute Chinese astrologer have foreseen that ‘What Are You Going To Do With Your Life?’ is worthier of the name [a]Echo & The Bunnymen[/a] and all its mythic properties than anything since ‘Ocean Rain’, the self-styled ‘Greatest Album Ever Made’? Fifteen years on from that memorable brush with hubris, it’s a case of better late than never.
If nothing else, 1997’s patchy comeback ‘Evergreen’ suggested Ian McCulloch needed to be a Bunnyman to be capable of living up to his own past. Now, though, the overcoat’s long gone, as are that record’s futile attempts to prove the Bunnymen could still rock in a ’90s sorta way. At no point does ‘What Are You Going To Do With Your Life?’ rock. It glides with a beautiful, uninhibited momentum. On the Fun Lovin’ Criminals-assisted ‘Get In The Car’, it jives. The exultant ‘Lost On You’ definitely grooves. But above all else, it swoons to the tune of its master’s voice, an instrument honed by years of life, love and all the shitty bits in between to a ravishing state of molten cashmere. For every flawless second of its defiantly brief 38-and-a-half minutes, Ian McCulloch sings it like he has to: like a man and from the heart.
Sod symbolism, sod obliquity, sod sodding ‘Villiers Terrace’: this is Mac’s truth. “When it all blows over/Can we start again?/When we’ve both grown older/Will you love me then?” Amid the rapturous swirl of ‘Baby Rain’, he looks in the mirror and demands: “So what’s the use of stealing/From your girl/When she’s the answer/And your world/And your chances…” A sweeter, more open letter from errant husband to long-suffering wife it’s hard to imagine.
The symbiosis between words and music is perfect and unexpectedly subtle. Instead of larding on the sorrowful strings, the arrangements posit Burt Bacharach leading the Love Unlimited Orchestra, with only the occasional edgy guitar motif to remind one of Will Sergeant‘s presence. Otherwise, as the insistent keystone title track implies, it’s a heart-to-heart between Mac, his questing soul and nine tunes fit for God’s Walkman.
In that Great Saloon Bar In The Sky, Frank Sinatra lights another ciggie and smiles. Ian McCulloch is singing songs for young lovers of all ages. A pure, timeless Echo.