Echo And The Bunnymen – Heaven Up Here
Released May 30th, 1981 on Korova Records
Produced by Hugh Jones and the Bunnymen
Peaked at #10 U.K., #184 U.S.
“A Promise” (#49 U.K.)
“Over The Wall”
Before Heaven Up Here, Echo and the Bunnymen were paisley Sixties-spiking psychedelic rockers who drew a little too deeply from the well of the Doors. After, they spent the Eighties in the Top 40 as one of the faces of the alt-rock mope-rock push that eventually ended the dominance of Zeppelin-styled heavy metal. On Heaven Up Here, though, they managed to do something truer to themselves, allowing themselves to experiment with their sound while gambling with their commercial appeal.
There’s little wonder why the album is considered the band’s artistic peak. Much like the Cure, Echo et al. dealt in lengthy songs with brooding basslines, skronk guitar storms, and an insistent drum racket. Unlike the Cure, Echo didn’t muffle themselves and colour everything grey. The sound presented here is crisp and clean, despite being utterly gothy. Contemporary critics compared it to Joy Division’s masterwork, Closer, which had been released the previous year. The key difference between Closer and Heaven Up Here is that the band doesn’t succumb to the temptations of self-destruction; there is a light at the end of the tunnel for EATB, one that leads to a brighter, albeit poppier, future.
Future EATB releases would dial back some of the dirge-like tendencies of this record. While many of the songs here seem dour, even if filled with swirling stormy power, later releases would add things like hooks and melodies. As such Heaven Up Here can be seen as the underlying power behind future big singles like “The Cutter” and “The Killing Moon”, supplying the rationale if not the hooks to get them up into the charts. It’s probably because of this that I find Heaven Up Here to be more compelling than, say, 1984’s Ocean Rain.