Liverpool-based band Echo and the Bunnymen have now come of age. NeilTrotter talked to them about their changing image and ideals.

In 197‘) young men with long raincoats and mop top hair were going down to Eric's in Liverpool. By 1983 similarly attired young men were hanging around Club,2()()() in Milan. Echo And The Bunnymen created and sustained a following and the attendant look across Europe and The States. Albums like Porcupine and Heaven Up Here defined the moody young thing. the cool dude on the dance floor whose silent reverie seems more in keeping with re flections on Schopenhauer than incredulity at the price of a pint of lager. Nine years on the Bunnymen are growing up. Marriage. mortgages and babies don‘t sit so well with existential doubt.

1987 saw the release of the band’s eponymous fifth album. the first of new material in three years. and ‘The Game'. the first single from it. 'signalled changed days.

"There is a change in us.‘ asserted Ian McCulloch. lyricist and frontman. ‘It‘s hard to explain but I think when people see us live they‘ll pick up on it. The big wall of self consciousness is down. We finally

laid down our raincoats. I‘m more ambitious to be great or to write great stuff. although I was always like that. maybe more focused and all those little things I can just brush aside. There‘s not enough time in your life to worry about them.‘ Will Seargeant. Bunnyman guitarist. is rather more succinct. ‘We‘re not so worried about trying to be cool as we used to be. We‘re not that arsed because it doesn‘t really mean that much at the end of the day ifsome student thinks you‘re trendy.’ Laconic by nature perhaps but also tired at the end of a difficult year, ‘not physically knackered, just a bit sick of it.‘ Will‘s synopsis of '87 is not enthusiastic. The choice of first single was the subject of controversy in the band. Mac was behind ‘The Game’: ‘there was that larger following that maybe wanted an out and out rocker but I felt “The Game" was about them and about expectations and about saying I have my own as well. It got to 28 and that was it. but I still think it’s one ofthe best things we‘ve done.’ Will was happier with ‘Lips Like Sugar’, eventually released as the second

single and his lack ofenthusiasm now extends to the album as a whole.

‘We‘re not really that happy with it. It‘s stale somehow. We weren’t there when it was mixed because we were touring Brazil and I didn‘t like the geezer who mixed it for a kick off. His claim to fame is. and this is a typical record company thing. he mixed a live album for Simple Minds. so all of a sudden he must be great. and it was just crap.’ Ifthe judgement ofstaleness seems harsh then it's fair to remember that the album was started without drummer Pete De Freitas, who did a runner and ostentatiously went bananas in New Orleans. and had to be reworked after Pete‘s return and recovery.

All things considered. Will’s downer on ‘87 might be justified. What should have been a triumphal return to the limelight didn‘t quite come off. The band‘s UK tour, set for October, had to be postponed because of an injury Mac sustained at the end of an otherwise successful American tour.

‘He fell offthe stage backwards, head first and it was a really high

stage.‘ But did he fall or was he puHed?

‘Depends what you want to believe. but I think it’s alright. he‘s still got a big scar on his leg.‘

Reports that Mac. a lifelong Liverpool supporter. was receiving treatment from the Everton team physio brightened up Bunnyless days. but alas proved unfounded.

‘It wasn't Everton‘s physio. She‘s done some stuff for Liverpool as well. She said she had a bit of a cob on when she read that in the papers. she wasn't happy about it .‘

This month then sees the band touring Britain for the first time since 1985 and Mac admitted to being apprehensive about it.

‘I think in Britain we had the biggest of those cult band followings but a lot of that has dissipated. They seem to like bands that I don‘t like and I think why did they like us? Was it just because we were a cult band that they could write on their schoolbags and appear hip‘."

The schoolbags may have been replaced by briefcases or UB40s and Mac is still anxious.

‘Britain is going to be the hard one

‘We‘re obviously the best‘

because there are more preconceptions about what we are or what we represent.‘

Will takes a more stoical view.

‘.It's always a bit weird playing in Britain. it‘s a funny place but it‘s alright. You can speak to people or go and get yourself a cheese butty or something.‘

Nonetheless. you are left in no doubt that May and the end ofthe tour won‘t come too soon.

‘I just want to get to May and then get on with the LP. We want to do a good one fora change and not leave it too long this time.‘

And so the Bunnymen hop not so gleefully into ‘88. putting behind them a fraught year but at least putting out some vinyl. lfanything will lighten their load it is perhaps the knowledge that they have finally shrugged off the cross of their contempoaries. Simple Minds and U2. Mega stadium mega-stardom may not be the path for these Liverpool lads. but Mac is as quietly. as any Liverpudlian can be. confident.

‘In the past whenever we were lumped in with them then I'd just say we’re miles better. Ifyou're going to look for a rock band, we’re obviously the best. Before we had the break that seemed to make sense. Having the break. I didn‘t really look at it in those terms. If anyone was going to mention it we‘d say we‘re miles better but now I‘d just say we’re different. When you‘re not being seen to compete with anything, or associate yourself with anything you do sort ofcome back on a lift.’

Echo And The Bunnymen may not be playing the game but, if they are, then it‘s their own game and they know the rules.

Echo and the Bunnymen appear at the Edinburgh Playhouse (m 15 Jan and Glasgow Burro wlands (m 16 Jan. See Rock Listings.

12 The List 8 21 January 1988