esign: Martyn Atkins & Photography: Brian Griffin Front sleeve of Ocean Rain
*Artist: Echo & The Bunnymen *Released: May 4, 1984 *Genre: Post-punk
Top 3 songs: Seven Seas (#3), The Killing Moon (#2), Nocturnal Me (#1)
Extra Fact: The band used a 35-piece orchestra to record the album
Personal ranking opinion: 9/10
Unbiased ranking: 8.5/10
The front sleeve image is a picture of the band, Ian McCulloch (vocals), Will Sergeant (guitars), Les Pattinson (bass), and Pete De Freitas (drums), rowing on a boat inside the Carnglaze Caverns in Liskeard, Cornwall, England. They choose this location to continue with the elemental themes of their albums (such as a snowy mountain in Porcupine).
Side A: A lonely guitar strum plays waiting for company, until it is drowned with various strings that begin the flow of “Silver” and the rest of the album. “Silver” is a good start for being the starting track. It gives the listener a taste of what Ian McCulloch has to offer with his vocals, the incorporation of the strings into the album, as well as Sergeant’s guitar chords refusing to be drowned by the strings. The song also gives an intro to McCulloch purposely stuttering through out Ocean Rain (like finger t-t-t-t-tips, or cu-cu-cu-cu-cucumber) The melody and lyrics blend perfectly to guide you down the calm stream that will take you to your end destination… the next track. The water becomes uncertain as a guitar and violin prepare you for the best ride of the journey. “Nocturnal Me” is a wave of strings crashing into your ears. There is no use in fighting against the current, you can only succumb to the overpowering waves of strings. “Nocturnal Me” is what I believe to be the best track the album has to offer. It maximizes the use of the orchestra that was at their disposal, especially the strings (something about using real strings in a song will always grab my attention, such as “Dazzle” by Siouxsie & The Banshees or “Monkey Gone to Heaven” by Pixies). McCulloch’s voice only complements the dark, hopeless atmosphere that is present in the melody. The ride fades out of the darkened rapids and into a glowing stream lit from the sound of “Crystal Days”. The song gives off a sense of joy with the guitar being the leader of the other instruments. Its a song that can be played while your walking during a nice sunny day, but for the sake of the ride this song is an exploration of a glowing cave. A cave of crystals both familiar and unfamiliar. The song is a vibrant ease into the next part of the cave. A dark and cold atmosphere emanates from the new part of the cave. “The Yo-yo Man” is both slow and intense at times. The cold wind can be felt from the sound of a synthesized pan flute being played lightly in your ear by the Yo-yo Man. In the middle is a section of chaos as the Yo-yo Man draws nearer, only for you to escape with a rush of bells, both real and synthetic. The Yo-yo Man returns for a final grab at you in your boat, trying to stay afloat to avoid “the wind that blows through [your] headstone”. You live to continue to ride to find a detour. Two paths: one will lead you closer towards the end of Ocean Rain and the other is an unpleasant path of confusion and distaste called “Thorn of Crowns”. I would recommend skipping the path to move on to what else Ocean Rain has to offer to make up for “Thorn of Crowns”
SIDE B: You exit the cave and are immediately blinded by the luminous glow of the moon reflected in the clear water and a guitar that will forever let you know of the moon’s present. “The Killing Moon” is a track to listen to closely. Listen to the instrumentation of the different guitars, the choir of strings, and the bass. All come together to proclaim that nothing you try can avoid the might of “The Killing Moon”. You are helpless as your float slowly staring up at the might of moon shining upon you. You can only “give yourself to him”- the moon. A moon of patience waiting for your submission to “the killing time”. Give yourself to the song- lose yourself in the song. Drift into an unconscious state as “The Killing Moon” has hijacked your emotions to instill both fear and wonder at the sight and sound of “The Killing Moon”. As you awake you are now on a ride far from the stream you arrived on. You are now in the middle of the ocean. Now your ride is through the “Seven Seas”. A tune to help you continue your ride to reach the end. As you row to reach the end of Ocean Rain you past sights of turtles and dolphins swimming alongside your boat. The bass is what keeps you on track from straying off the right direction. You are guided without distraction of the wonders you may see or experience riding the “Seven Seas”. After the brief journey through the seven seas, you find the stream leading towards the end. On your way you go past one last wonder, “My Kingdom”. The song is free from distraction, as it simply prepares you for reaching your end destination. An interesting song with McCulloch’s return to repeating syllables (b-b-burn;b-b-bite), a piano appearing when it feels is needed, and a guitar following the lyrics, only to go off on its own to play. “My Kingdom” and “Crystal Days” can be seen as distant brothers. Both growing up with the same influences and ideas, but taking different paths of their interpretation of what joy means to them. “My Kingdom” ends the guitar’s loud sound to let you feel the presence of your destination. Your stream has lead you to back to the ocean, only the moon is gone and all that hits you is soft rain. “Océan Rain” is a calm end to your ride. McCulloch’s voice is what’s heard above all the instrumentation at first, but the instruments join in to give you a sense to be calm being back at “sea again”. You can sit back on your boat and listen to the violins lightly support McCulloch’s almost melancholy voice. Feel the rain hit your face to the sound of “Océan Rain”. The best parts are when the instruments are now in control of leading the song- a song of triumph for making it to the end. The final track ends with the violins still wanting to continue. Was it worth the ride? There were some bumps and confusion along the way, but to hear everything come to a calm resolve is definitely worth the ride. Ocean Rain is the best of what Echo & The Bunnymen had to offer as an improvement on their sound. Is it the best album ever(as the album was advertised)? No. Is it the best Echo & The Bunnymen album? I believe it is their best. That’s why I’ll always jump back into the rowboat to restart the orchestrated ride of Ocean Rain.