& The Bunnymen's dark, swirling fusion of gloomy post-punk
and Doors-inspired psychedelia brought the group a handful of
British hits in the early '80s, while attracting a cult following
in the United States.
The Bunnymen grew out of the Crucial Three, a late '70s trio featuring
vocalist Ian McCulloch, Pete Wylie, and Julian Cope. Cope and
Wylie left the group by the end of 1977, forming the Teardrop
Explodes and Wah!, respectively. McCulloch met guitarist Will
Seargent in the summer of 1978 and the pair began recording demos
with a drum machine, which the duo called "Echo." Adding bassist
Les Pattinson, the band made its live debut at the Liverpool club
Eric's at the end of 1978, calling themselves Echo & the Bunnymen.
In March of 1979, the group released their first single, "Pictures
on My Wall"/"Read It in Books," on the local Zoo record label.
The single and their popular live performances led to a contract
with Korova. After signing the contract, the group discarded the
drum machine, adding drummer Pete de Freitas.
Released in the summer of 1980, their debut album Crocodiles reached
number 17 on the U.K. charts. Shine So Hard, an EP released in
the fall, became their first record to crack the U.K. Top 40.
With the more ambitious and atmospheric Heaven Up Here (1981),
the group began to gain momentum, thanks to positive reviews;
it became their first U.K. Top Ten album. Two years later, Porcupine
appeared, becoming the band's biggest hit (peaking at No. 2 on
the U.K. charts) and launching the Top Ten single, "The Cutter."
"The Killing Moon" became the group's second Top Ten hit at the
beginning of 1984, yet its follow-up, "Silver," didn't make it
past number 30 when it was released in May. Ocean Rain was released
that same month to great critical acclaim; peaking at number four
in Britain, the record became the Bunnymen's first album to chart
in the U.S. Top 100. The following year was a quiet one for the
band, as they released only one new song, "Bring on the Dancing
Horses," which was included on the compilation, Songs to Learn
and Sing. De Freitas left the band at the start of 1986 and was
replaced by former Haircut 100 drummer Mark Fox; by September,
de Freitas rejoined the group.
Echo & the Bunnymen returned with new material in the summer
of 1987, releasing the single "The Game" and a self-titled album.
Echo & the Bunnymen became their biggest American hit, peaking
at No. 51; it was a success in England as well, reaching No. 4.
However, the album indicated that the group was in a musical holding
pattern. At the end of 1988, McCulloch left the band to pursue
a solo career; the rest of the band decided to continue without
the singer. Tragedy hit the band in the summer of 1989, when de
Freitas was killed in an auto accident. McCulloch released his
first solo album, Candleland, in the fall of 1989; it peaked at
No. 18 in the U.K. and No. 159 in the U.S. Echo & the Bunnymen
released Reverberation, their first album recorded without McCulloch,
in 1990; it failed to make the charts. McCulloch released his
second solo album, Mysterio, in 1992. Two years later, Ian McCulloch
and Will Sergeant formed Electrafixion, releasing their first
album in 1995. In 1997, the duo reteamed with Pattinson to reform
Echo and the Bunnymen, issuing the LP Evergreen. Two years later,
they returned with What Are You Going to Do With Your Life. The
new millennium brought Echo & the Bunnymen back to basics. The
British press touted the band's storybook flair found on 1983's
Ocean Rain and figured such spark would be found on their ninth
album. Flowers, which reflected McCulloch's dark breezy vocals,
and Sergeant's signature hooks, was issued in spring 2001. — Stephen