The Magic Whip
Ian McCulloch's battled some demons to get here, but he's come out stronger.
Liverpool legends Echo & The Bunnymen have reached their 12th album of a disjointed but never less than epic career and seem to be on the up again. McCulloch and stalwart guitarist Will Sergeant's last outing was 2009's Fountains, a serviceable, unspectacular collection of big rock that preceded an emotionally fraught period for the singer. Heavy introspection has led to his sturdiest songs in some time.
Personal tribulations haven't led to a dark album, just a true one. Even as McCulloch examines his own mental health on Is This A Breakdown? he comes up with a catchy chorus that has a real spring in its step. Maybe that's Liverpudlian irony. The restless New Horizons — as he considers a life beyond his hometown — hits fond, hopeful notes throughout, guitar twanging easily.
There are big hitters here. Holy Moses, with its trademark "Yeah yeah yeah"s, will have them singing in the stalls, and baggy epic Market Town has a decent punchy groove if you're willing to ignore that 25 years have passed. The only gripe is a surfeit of plodders from the dirge-like Burn It Down to the bombastic title track. Sturdy though — that's not bad going at this stage.