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Digital Subscriptions > Classic Pop > Jan-19 > SHOOTING FROM THE LIP

SHOOTING FROM THE LIP

AS ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN RETURN WITH REWORKED VERSIONS OF SOME OF THE MOST ICONIC MOMENTS FROM THEIR GLITTERING BACK CATALOGUE, IAN MCCULLOCH, AKA MAC THE MOUTH, IS TAKING NO PRISONERS: “IF YOU’VE GOT A QUOTE, SAY IT. I’M A SARCASTIC BASTARD…”

Country rocker Steve Earle once said he’d stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table and declare his mentor Townes Van Zandt the best songwriter that he’d ever heard. Well, I’d stand before David Bowie’s Holy Ghost and declare Ian McCulloch the best singer ever birthed by this isle.

Bowie played characters; McCulloch is all character. His voice is soaked in the experience of a life well lived, a dance between grace and danger. His voice is honest, Scouse honest. Time spent in his company, even on a dodgy phoneline, is never dull – a freewheeling symphony of sarcasm, mischief, truthfulness, sensitivity and savvy. When Mac The Mouth talks, he sounds like a wounded but wise man full of tales and trickery. And when he sings, he still sounds like the boy who should have been king.

McCulloch remains the quintessential rockstar poet. Listen to the vibrant re-imagination of his back pages on The Stars, The Oceans & The Moon, songs that were peerless anyway, done again for the sake of being better. Which they are. The Killing Moon, the murkiest of ballads, cries out in a different note, a bluer note. Mac’s miserablist touchstones – Morrison, Cohen, Brel, Sinatra – are distilled in that singular, defining performance. It will be a difficult return to the original. The whole album is a reminder not of what Echo & The Bunnymen were, but of what Echo & The Bunnymen are.

McCulloch seems humbled by the generous reception already afforded The Stars, The Oceans & The Moon, as though he can’t believe people continue to care. But why wouldn’t we? “A lot of people have said ‘congratulations’. It’s weird. I knew that it could go either way, but it seems people are interested,” he tells me, genuinely pleased. So why did he feel the need to revive a legacy? “I sometimes find a different coat after 40 years. I think the main thing was, if I get to hear one of the old versions, I always squirm. They’re fantastic records, but I think the fact that they were sung without experience… Songs like The Killing Moon, even with the band live, it means something different to me. It never had a specific meaning, but it’s got me through my life, that song. I kind of feel I own that moon. Not Neil Armstrong’s one. But I do own that one.

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About Classic Pop

Issue 48 is on sale now! In our latest issue we look ahead to the most hotly-anticipated album of 2019 – it’s the return of Madonna. We also analyse her six personas that changed the face of pop and wax lyrical about her classic album Like A Prayer. We’ve got outrageous must-read interviews with Paul Heaton plus Echo and the Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch and Ultravox fans will love our chat with the legendary Midge Ure. Our panel of experts look back over the year to count down their pick of the finest albums, reissues, compilations and books of 2018 and elsewhere we catch up with The Fizz to hear about their rollercoaster year as well as tracing the make-or-break record that saved The Jam’s career. We review new releases by Trevor Horn, Joe Jackson and Fun Lovin' Criminals while in our packed reissues section we look at Simple Minds, Depeche Mode, Brian Eno and much more. We also check out gigs by Heaven 17, Rick Astley and Blancmange.