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Ian McCulloch

As if one needed reminding that Ian is the mainman (or “vain”-man) behind 80s alt-rockers ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN, the maverick singer has also delivered three albums, the first two after he’d bailed out from said group, the last while still a member. From his part in short-lived Crucial Three, alongside future stars JULIAN COPE and PETE WYLIE, to his lengthy double-tenures in the Bunnymen (from 1978-88 and 1997 to now) and a little bit of ELECTRAFIXION with Bunnymen stalwart Will Sergeant in between times, the mop-top McCULLOCH has been in and around the Brit-pop music scene for over three decades.
Born 5th May 1959, Liverpool, England, the young Ian was a fan of everyone from LOU REED, IGGY POP and DAVID BOWIE to The DOORS and LEONARD COHEN; over the course of his career, he’s since covered BOWIE’s `The Prettiest Star’, ELVIS’s `Return To Sender’ and JOHN LENNON’s `Jealous Guy’. The fact that he kicked off his solo career with a minor hit rendition of Kurt Weill’s `September Song’ (as an extracurricular activity in ’84) was proof enough his idols were a mixed bag.
Breaking from the day-to-day restraints set by band life, McCULLOCH was free to explore all avenues in his new solo career. Sadly, around the time final touches were being added to his debut album, the tragic news of Bunnymen drummer Pete de Freitas losing his life (June 1989) in a motorbike accident filtered through. The Ray Shulman-produced Top 20 set CANDLELAND (1989) {*7} was received well in most quarters, its rom-rock affective in songs such as the single `Proud To Fall’ (like its predecessor only a No.51 hit), `Faith & Healing’ and his collaboration with COCTEAU TWINS’ Elizabeth Fraser, `Candleland (The Second Coming)’. Taking an all-new backing band (The Prodigal Sons: Mike Mooney, John McEvoy, Edgar Summertime and Steve Humphries) on tour at the turn of the decade, Ian’s solo career looked promising.
With only one week in the Top 50 for both MYSTERIO (1992) {*5} and the spawned COHEN cover `Lover, Lover, Lover’, McCULLOCH looked to be treading water, as critics seemed to give it the thumbs down. Without the soaring and swirling of SERGEANT’s Echo-ing guitar flurries, good but inhibited songs such as `Close Your Eyes’ and `Pomegranate’ seem to lose something of an edge, an edge that Ian once had in abundance.
Rekindled by a reunion with Will in post-grunge/Brit-rockers ELECTRAFIXION for what turned out to be a one-off set, `Burned’ (1995), showed Ian still possessed the passion to succeed; by all accounts, one knows that he was concentrating on helping to raise his two young children. When the rumours of Ian, Will and original bassist Les Pattinson re-forming the mighty ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN were proved correct, indie fans were keen to buy up their comeback set, `Evergreen’ (1997); the man’s been at the helm ever since.
Now well into middle-age, it was a more sure-footed and centred McCULLOCH that re-emerged in 2003 with moonlighting set, SLIDELING {*6}, his first solo album in over a decade. Relying on acoustic-based arrangements with sympathetic string accompaniment, the singer put aside any residual attitude and artifice for a more candid and resolute portrayal of his artistic position in the post-millennial rock arena. Check out `Sliding’, `Baby Hold On’, `Love In Veins’ and `Playgrounds And City Parks’ for an idea where the man was at.
Still a Bunnyman at heart, McCULLOCH was back in 2012 with self-released download sets, PRO PATRIA MORI {*6} and the LIVE AT LIVERPOOL ANGLICAN CATHEDRAL (2013) {*7}. While the latter set combined all his colourful indie vignettes from his Bunnymen and solo times, Ian best described his own work on the former album as “like Hunky Dory Bowie looking for Brian Wilson’s surfboard on the moon”; HOLY GHOSTS was the cumulative official double-CD release in April 2013.
© MC Strong 1994-2006/GRD / rev-up MCS Aug2012-Mar2013

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