Despite what Echo & the Bunnymen might hope, it’s not the ’80s anymore. The British post-punk outfit formed in 1978 when its original line-up consisted of three men and a drum machine. The Bunnymen have come a long way since then, releasing 11 studio albums, most of which climbed toward the summits of the UK charts. On The Fountain, though, Echo & the Bunnymen seem to have lost the creative juices that made them so popular during their ’80s heyday.
Echo & the Bunnymen
The Fountain jumpstarts with “Think I Need It Too,” a dreamy, provoking track that feels like it came straight out of an arena benefit concert with its epic intention and soaring vocals — ironic, considering frontman Ian McCulloch’s public condemnation of stadium mainstay U2. Regardless, the song is refreshing, fitting snuggly in the Bunnymen catalogue with its musical simplicity. The rest of the album, however, feels like a frustrating attempt to repeat the magic of the song’s opening four minutes. While some other cuts recapture bits and pieces of fleeting wonder — like “Drivetime” with its soaring guitars and folksy vocals, and the plain, upbeat “Do You Know Who I Am?” — the inspiration is scattered sparingly among lukewarm compositions.
While most of the tracks offer competent meat-and-potatoes arena rock, they rarely rise above mediocrity and are simply forgettable. Thanks to the unvaried song structures and their lifeless, detached execution, the album feels like a run-on sentence. As Fountain progresses, the tracks quickly become background music.
Lyrically, the record offers dull generalities about middle-aged apathy. Many of the tracks are full of repetitive verses and half-baked choruses that sound thrown together in a rushed studio operation. An exception is “Shroud of Turin,” an investigative track full of religious undertones. McCulloch expresses deftly ambiguous lamentation over what could be interpreted as either a failed relationship or spiritual cynicism with lines like, “It never happens when you want it to / It never does what it’s supposed to do.”
Even the songs’ thematic expressions are pleated for the mainstream, capturing love with broad, facile lyrics like “Love / Hate it / Want it,” missing the oddball metaphors that marked the band’s past work. It’s as if The Fountain was watered-down, with neutrality in an attempt to appeal to more listeners. Refusing to break the band’s routine of radio-ready rock, the album loses the edge that made Echo and the Bunnymen’s previous albums worth a listen.
While there is a certain comfort found in consistency, it is Echo and the Bunnymen’s failure to take risks that secures Fountain as a passive, middle-of-the-road album.