Monday, February 8, 2010

The End of the Eighties, Track 07

Ian McCulloch

It was a bit of a tossup here. The track in this slot could just as easily be “All My Life”. That Echo & the Bunnymen tune off their self-titled 1987 release is one of my favorites, its circular melody matching the lyrical motion of the chorus perfectly (“All my, all my life / revolves around laughter and crying / as my life turns round and round.”). It’s a beautiful song and easy to see where frontman Ian McCulloch was ultimately headed a couple of years later with his first solo effort.

Candleland is one of those albums that hit at the perfect moment to permanently lodge itself in the musical catalog of my brain. McCulloch released a personal, affecting ten-song collection reflecting on death and rebirth, pulling heavily from the experience of losing both his father and original Bunnymen drummer Pete de Freitas that same year.

The album’s title track is very much the progeny of “All My Life”. There is a maturity about it that belies the melancholy. McCulloch sings of honoring the past while mourning loss. Although reflective Goth-y punks consider death, one’s own mortality is usually the last thing on a 19-year-old’s mind. But with Candleland, McCulloch subtly nudges the listener into headier places by virtue of sharing his own reflections.

I have always loved that cross-pollination within the alternative music scene. Like Sinéad O’Connor’s guest vocals on The The’s “Kingdom of Rain”, Robert Smith’s stint with the Banshees, or Propaganda’s Claudia Brücken showing up on Andy Bell’s solo album, finding Cocteau Twin Elizabeth Fraser on “Candleland” is a treat. Her shimmering vocals only help elevate the song to even greater heights.

A few years later McCulloch’s second solo effort, Mysterio, did nothing for me, but 2003’s Slideling is a wonderful compliment to Candleland. Those two albums still rotate through my player regularly.

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