My friend and former roommate/bandmate/microcinema collaborator Jason tagged me in a post recently and tasked me with writing a few words about Echo & The Bunnymen. This was the result.
‘The Killing Moon’ starts out on a real Brian Jones tip with this ascending, twangy lick played on what must be the result of some post-punker forcing a Shubb capo onto an electric sitar he found half-broken in a construction-site dumpster. And by the time Ian McCullough starts crooning like a skinny, pale Tom Jones, down-tuned tremolo guitars are spanking your ears repeatedly with Morriconian melodrama. I love the lyrics. Is “Northern Gothic” a thing? Is “Industrial British Teenage Shakespeare”?
I’m going to be straight with you. I’ve actually never owned an Echo album and — beyond “The Killing Moon”, which I’ve listened to hundreds of times — I barely know their music. The first thing I ever heard by them was “Bring On The Dancing Horses”, which I once knew as “that Simple Minds song I don’t like as much as ‘Don’t You Forget About Me.'” It was in a John Hughes movie and I had the soundtrack on cassette. It was either Pretty In Pink or The Breakfast Club. I didn’t hear “The Killing Moon” until 1998-ish, when Mark Carpenter and I were into Napstering mass quantities of Beck and Pavement bootlegs. Pavement covered the song during some radio session, I think for the BBC [BBC Radio One Evening Session, 14-Jan-1997], and we found it and I’m sure we must have played it on “Two Crazy Guys in a Spaceship”, our show on KSCR [2-4pm Afternoon Drive, Fall 1999 to Spring 2000]. I worked backwards from Pavement to get to the original.
There’s one more thing. I don’t mean to sound like a “…Spaghetti Incident?” apologist, but during the instrumental break of Pavement’s “Killing Moon”, in a fog of angst, S.M. erupts into scatting, and then lists the names of random vegetables. I distinctly remember hearing “cu-cu-cu-cu-cumber” and maybe also “cabbage.” I like a little humor swirled into my pain, and the gesture cuts me deep. Stephen sings those elongated veggie names with the wryness of a guy who’d take a break from bleeding out to flip someone the bird with his own severed hand. Then, he plays one of his best guitar solos on record — a devastating mix of heartbreaking melody and atonal noise. Long story short, even though I’m not that into Echo, “Killing Moon” is one of my favorite songs ever, and — to my biased ears — Pavement’s version is definitive.