Echo & The Bunnymen Pick Up Where They Left Off

Ian McCulloch thinks Bunnymen sound is timeless. Photo by Jay Blakesberg.

Echo and the Bunnymen lead singer Ian McCulloch has no problem

with fans who might think the band's soon-to-be released comeback album,

Evergreen (July 15) offers nothing new and unusual.

In fact, that's

what he's hoping for.

"Even the name, Evergreen, has an element of

tongue in cheek," says McCulloch of Echo's first album of new material since he

left the band to pursue a solo career in 1989 (barring 1990's McCulloch-less

Reverberation). "But, that's also what we are, evergreen. In our best

songs of the past, some may have been heavy on the pretentiousness and

melodrama, but others, whether they came out in the '70s, '80s or in 2010, they

fit in. A song like 'The Killing Moon' still sounds relevant to me."

And

the dozen songs on the new album, from the gloomy opening track "Don't Let It

Get You Down," with its jangly, spiraling lead guitar line, to the swelling,

classic Bunnymen mope of the title track, do have a timeless quality. "We

always set out to do timeless stuff," says McCulloch, who feels at ease with

the notion that new songs such as the strident dark pop of "In My Time" and the

classic Echo ebb and fade of "I'll Fly Tonight" could have been culled from any

random sampling of the Bunnymen's catalog.

"I think if you put (our first

album) Crocodiles next to the latest thing from Supergrass or whoever,

it stands up. In fact, it more than stands up," he says.

With a decade out

of the limelight and the addition of drummer Mike Lee to replace original

member Pete de Freitas, who was killed in a 1989 auto accident, the Bunnymen

are counting on the winning power of lush pop arrangements and dreamy

songwriting to bring their fans back into the fold. "The whole reason we got

back together was because we just realized it's what we are," says the singer

about last year's decision by the band to give it another go. "We all agreed

that it made sense, but with the criteria that we have to aim to make not only

the best rock record that we've ever made but the best record of 1997."

Once McCulloch was convinced the band had found the best replacement for

de Freitas ("Mike is brilliant. He's powerful, perhaps more powerful than Pete

even, if that's possible," says McCulloch), they entered London's Masterock

Studios for seven weeks in February and March of this year and banged out the

dozen songs in short order, often in only one or two takes.

"We wanted to

do things as spontaneously as possible and to try and find the same color and

character of our early albums," says McCulloch.

And how will fans weaned

for the past few years on all things Brit Pop treat new Echo songs such as the

first U.S. single, "I Want to Be There (When You Come)," a classic Echo downer

pop tune with jangling guitars and a trippy, rippling psychedelic solo? "Well,"

says McCulloch with no hint of distress, "they're already playing the first UK

single on the radio all the time and it doesn't sound so out of place. We'll

see."