If ‘punk rock’ was the year zero cataclysmic event akin to the Big Bang, then the era known as post punk was the coalescing of all the debris produced, giving rise to a new form, a new beginning, brimming with fresh ideas. Let’s face it: punk in the United Kingdom meant Never Mind the Bollocks and little all else. The Clash’s first album had its moments but they were already ‘the new Stones’ in waiting. Apart from a few interesting singles from the likes of Wire, Ruts and Subway Sect, we were left with parodies of The Stooges and speeded up heavy metal riffs with dodgy political ideologies draped over the top. Post-punk, however, was the gargantuan step forward that the punk movement had initiated and instead of the aforementioned Stooges, the new movement was looking to Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground, as well as The Doors for guidance, and even further afield with the likes of Can and Neu were added to the melting pot. In this exiting climate of rapidly evolving sounds and ideas Echo & The Bunnymen came to the fore with their initial release “Rescue” making ‘Single of the Week’ in most of the U.K. music weeklies, and the subsequent album Crocodiles scoring the perfect ten with most critics. In the three decades that have passed since these initial releases, we have had further classic albums but none coming close to the first four, and Meteorites is no exception. After the death of Pete de Freitas in a motorcycle accident and the departure of bassist Les Pattinson, The Bunnymen have been for most of the last two decades the duo of Mc Culloch and Sergeant with session musicians enlisted for touring and recording duties.
The album opens with the title track, an atmospheric ballad with a mournful Mc Culloch asking, “Where is the hope?”, but unfortunately this doesn’t set the precedent for subsequent tracks and a downturn in quality soon follows. Most of the album consists of over-produced and over-orchestrated arrangements of songs that have little direction or spark of energy. “Constantinople” is a decent stab at an alignment with the new psych bands in its eastern guitar tunings, but Sergeant’s talent and intricacies are mostly buried in the sludge of strings and layered vocals. “Market Town” is possibly the only other track where the guitar stands proud and its seven and a half minutes is a welcome break from the barrage of attempts at pop classicism that most fall woefully short.
Most bands from the golden era described have either given up or are doing the round of ‘classic album’ tours, a money generating exercise that The Bunnymen themselves have also been ‘guilty’ of (QRO live review). They should be commended for being both brave and confident enough to release new material to a dwindling audience three decades after their nadir, but with this album the fan base will hark back to a time when the guitars chimed and ‘Mac the Mouth’ was in his pomp.