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Alternative & Indie - Released October 5, 2018 | BMG Rights Management (UK) Limited

When Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant got an offer from BMG to sign Echo & the Bunnymen to a recording contract, the label had a plan for them to re-record their old classics with an orchestra. McCulloch thought it was a fine idea, as he wanted to sing the songs from the perspective of an older and wiser man. By the time The Stars, the Ocean & the Moon was released, though, it had become something a little different. While some of the songs were done with piano and strings, many were given arrangements that sounded very similar to the originals, and there were two new songs mixed in among the timeless tracks. It makes for a jumbled listening experience that is sure to leave many Echo fans wondering just why the record exists. The songs that hew closely to the originals, like "Bring on the Dancing Horses" and "Rescue," come off like brittle, fidelity-challenged ghosts of the originals, lacking the majesty and mystery that made them so brilliant to begin with. The songs that take liberties with the arrangements are more interesting. "Nothing Lasts Forever," a track from the mostly overlooked Evergreen, makes fine use of strings, marimba, and organ, creating a melancholy bed for one of Mac's better vocals. The piano-and-orchestra version of "The Killing Moon" is no patch on the original, but at least it attempts something different and almost succeeds. That's more than can be said for the accordion-led take on "Seven Seas," which is a little too on the nose, sea shanty-wise. Oddly, the newly recorded songs sound best. Both the "The Somnambulist" and "How Far?" are fine late-period Echo and allow Sergeant a chance to play guitar -- he's mostly missing in action on the rest of the record -- and have a rhythmic drive and power lacking elsewhere. They're also the only songs to mix McCulloch's vocals with any delicacy at all. They are part of the overall sound and blended with harmonies instead of being too far in front and hung out to dry with barely any reverb or artifice to cushion them. It's clear that he wanted his voice to be the central focus of the new takes, but it's also clear that he can't carry songs the way he used to. Sad as it is to say, his voice lacks command, and when matched with the weak arrangements, mostly unimaginative string parts, and overall thin sound, it adds up to a record that's less the vital transformation the band hoped for and more of an embarrassment. Apart from the two new songs that bode well for future albums of original material, there is absolutely no reason for Echo fans to choose a spin of The Stars, the Ocean & the Moon over another listen to the songs in their original perfect state. © Tim Sendra /TiVo