[Review] Echo and The Bunnymen: Crocodiles (1980)

[Kronomyth 1.0]
Crocodelic, baby.

Some babies are born with a full head of hair, and some bands emerge fully formed on their first album. It’s rare, but it does happen sometimes. Case in point, Crocodiles. This album is a complete realization of the Echo & The Bunnymen sound: the driving rhythms, punkadelic guitars and Ian’s harrowing voice atop it all. The Cure and The Psychedelic Furs both sacrificed at least one album to the dying gods of punk. The Bunnymen appear to have contained their sacrifice to a single song, “Simple Stuff,” which appeared as the B side to “Rescue” and sounds uncannily like Iggy Pop. Over time, McCulloch’s charismatic and commanding presence would draw frequent comparisons to Jim Morrison, but other American bands such as The Stooges, Television and Talking Heads seem to have been as much of an influence in the early going. Anyway, those influences were quickly assimilated and sublimated into the gloomy, post-psychedelic world of Crocodiles. And this really is its own world, arriving as it does out of the void on the opening “Going Up” to announce a frightening new “Heaven” (the Talking Heads track being the operative reference point) where the former psychedelic virtues of peace and love have been traded in for angst and fear. This startling introduction is followed by the brilliant “Stars Are Stars,” in which The Bunnymen declare that youthful dreams are dead, and then offer their own dark dreams as a kind of inverted idealism. I won’t bore you with a song-by-song description of the album; they all follow the same basic tension-release model, with the band building tension as they pit the preternaturally tight rhythm section of Les Pattinson and Pete De Freitas against the supernatural shapes of McCulloch’s voice and Will Sergeant’s guitar, and then releasing that tension in the chorus. This formula works extremely well on the single “Rescue,” as Ian casts his cries of a drowning man into a pool party invitation. As David Fricke pointed out in his very insightful review of this album, Echo and The Bunnymen have adopted the musical ideals of the 60s psychedelic movement while refuting its philosophies, a point made plainest in “Villiers Terrace,” where the drug culture is painted in black. The same might be said of the band in general; they have rejected the past’s technicolor rainbow and retained only the indigo (a color that seems to come up often as I listen to them). All of that said, this isn’t music made in a vacuum. PiL, Gang of Four, Siouxsie and The Banshees, U2, The Cure, The Psychedelic Furs and many others (including the aforementioned American bands) were creating similar music. But Echo’s world is uniquely its own, and Crocodiles is the perfect prototype of that world; everything after is simply a refinement of what you’ll find here. Note that the original version of Crocodiles featured a free single (“Do It Clean” b/w “Read It In Books”), with those two tracks appended to the elpee proper for the delayed American release. An expanded, remastered edition to commemorate the band’s 25th anniversary included several bonus tracks as well as the full contents of the live EP, Shine So Hard.

Original LP version
A1. Going Up
A2. Do It Clean*
A3. Stars Are Stars
A4. Pride
A5. Monkeys
A6. Crocodiles
B1. Rescue
B2. Villier’s Terrace
B3. Read It In Books*
B4. Pictures On My Wall
B5. All That Jazz
B6. Happy Death Men

* These songs only appeared on the US release.

All songs written by Echo and The Bunnymen.

Expanded CD reissue
1. Going Up
2. Stars Are Stars
3. Pride
4. Monkeys
5. Crocodiles
6. Rescue
7. Villiers Terrace
8. Pictures On My Wall
9. All That Jazz
10. Happy Death Men
11. Do It Clean
12. Read It In Books
13. Simple Stuff
14. Villiers Terrace (early version)
15. Pride (early version)
16. Simple Stuff (early version)
17. Crocodiles (live)
18. Zimbo (live)
19. All That Jazz (live)
20. Over The Wall (live)

The Players
Pete De Freitas (drums), Ian McCulloch (vocals, guitar), Les Pattinson (bass), Will Sergeant (lead guitar) with David Balfe (keyboards). Produced by The Chameleons (David Balfe and Bill Drummond) and engineered by Hugh Jones except A4 and B1 produced by Ian Broudie and engineered by Rod Houison.

The Pictures
Cover photography by Brian Griffin; insert photograph by Bill Butt.

The Plastic
Originally released in July 1980 in the UK (Korova, KODE 1) with a bonus 7-inch (“Do It Clean” b/w “Read It In Books”), on July 18, 1980 in Australia (WEA, 600075) and in 1980 in Canada (Sire/Korova, BUN 1) and Germany (Korova, KOW 58 175) with picture innersleeve; reached #17 on the UK charts. Also released in October 1980 on expanded elpee and cassette in the US (Sire/Korova, SRK/M5S 6096) with two bonus tracks.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1987 in Brazil (Korova/WEA, 38080).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in July 1988 in the US (Sire/Korova, 6096-2).
  3. Re-issued on compact disc in Japan (WEA/Korova, WMC5-54).
  4. Re-released on 180g vinyl elpee in the US (Rhino, 78060-1).
  5. Re-released on super high material compact disc on October 22, 2013 in Japan (WEA, WPCR-15277) with a bonus single.
  6. Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc on November 3, 2003 in the UK (WEA, 322344) 8 bonus tracks.
  7. Re-issued on expanded, remastered compact disc on January 27, 2004 in the US (Rhino, 61161) with 8 bonus tracks.

1 thought on “[Review] Echo and The Bunnymen: Crocodiles (1980)

  1. Hi Dave,

    Very interesting review. Loved the way you digged deep into the subject matter of the songs on “Crocodiles”. I really like the first Echo and the Bunnymen album. There is a sense of immediacy to it that remarkable first albums usually give but it is also a fully formed sound with great production too.

    Keep up the good work.

    Best wishes,
    Ajit (Soviet Space Bat)

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