Before “The Killing Moon” revealed itself to be an all-time classic, my favorite song was “My Kingdom.” An outlier on Ocean Rain, “My Kingdom” eschewed the strings that dominated the rest of the album.
Instead, it started with a cheesy-sounding keyboard, skittering drums and a mellow acoustic guitar lick. Completely inauspicious. But that’s just a fake-out, because the chorus of “My Kingdom” is as rousing as anything in their catalog.
B-b-burn the skin off and climb the roof top
Thy will be done
B-b-bite the nose off and make it the most of
Your king- kingdom kingdom kingdommmmmmm!!!
After the second and third choruses, Ian McCullough’s vocals practically fall into Will Sergeant’s stinging guitar solos. Ian McCullough is having so much fun — yes I said “fun” — references his old friend Bonie Maronie and almost scats one of the last choruses: “Your kuh-kuh-kuh-kuh-kuh-kingdom, king-kuh-kuh-kuh-kuh”
And the end is the exact opposite of the quiet beginning: Sergeant is just soloing and soloing and McCullough is singing deep in the mix — about death and stuff — until they all decide they’ve had enough of your damn kingdom already and just end the song.
I’m trying to remember: when did it first become obvious that “The Killing Moon” wasn’t just Echo & The Bunnymen’s greatest song, but an absolutely enduring classic that will forever be counted among the greatest rock songs of not just the 1980s, but all-time?
I think it took some time. I think it was too big to grok in 1984.
I was able to see Echo & The Bunnymen live during their original incarnation in the mid-1980s, and live, they were a much different band.
Whereas their albums were usually clean and precise, in concert, they were much looser, stretching songs out, with Will Sergeant improvising riffs and Ian McCullough not only playing with his words, but often throwing other people’s words in as well.
Along with the obvious singles like “The Cutter,” “Heads Will Roll” and “Back of Love,” Porcupine was full of long trance songs that found a — well, “groove” is probably a bit too strong of a word — pathway, and then rode along that pathway for a good long time.
My favorite of those songs is “Gods Will Be Gods,” which faded in from infinity in full flight with a big-ass kickdrum and a rumbling bass, followed by about a million guitars layered on top of each other, and Ian McCullough singing — well, to be honest, I have no fucking idea what he was singing.
After a second album, Heaven Up Here, that I underrated for years because I thought it was too dour by a half — turns out that was its strength — Echo & The Bunnymen’s third album, Porcupine, was more to my 1983 taste.
With songs that were one half psychedelic, one half trance, and one half pop, Porcupine caught the Bunnymen right before their ambition to be the biggest band in the world outpaced their ability to actually be the biggest band in the world.