It’s been a while since I’ve heard Porcupine and even longer since I’ve heard my favourite, Heaven Up Here, so I am having a hard time listening to this record and deciding whether my memory is bad or something else is going on.
Part of the problem is that this record has been a little hyped for me, not just from the reviews but by a guest of the podcast who claimed, if I remember correctly, that it was their best record. (I could be misremembering that, though.)
The problem I’m having is that this record doesn’t quite feel like my memory of this band – it feels like a much more accessible, safer version of the band. I’ve heard the odd review that says something to that affect, but many more that think this record is a step forward. But the things I recognize as Echo and the Bunnymen only occasionally appear to my ears. This record sounds a lot closer to the ’90s version of the band than the early ’80s version of the band, at least to my ears. (Keep in mind, this is my fourth or fifth album of theirs, total.)
Though McCulloch gets a lot of flack for his lyrics on this record, I still find his lyrics above average. I’d much rather someone try to be poetic than to not bother at all. I understand if you don’t feel that way – sometimes there are few things worse than bad poetry – but I don’t think there’s much here that qualifies as bad; pseudo-profound perhaps, but that depends in part on your lens.
My problem is much more with the arrangements and the songs themselves. The arrangements often feature a heavy dose of strings and acoustic guitar, two things I don’t normally associate with post punk, which make these songs sound more traditional. Moreover, the songs are definitely more straightforward. Add cleaner production and these things expose McCulloch to more scrutiny, which is why I think so many people have problems with the lyrics this time out; we’re listening more closely.
But the songs are catchy and McCulloch remains in fine form as a singer, even if he does indeed sound like Bono too much on occasion. And the arrangements are good even if they are not as interesting as they used to be. So I don’t mean to be as critical as I sound. I just prefer the earlier version of this band. (And I believe this is the first step in the band’s transition from their earlier sound to whatever it was they were doing in the 1990s, that render their earlier records so utterly different.)
PS It’s pronounced “tortuss”