PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Ian McCulloch: Slideling

Jason MacNeil

Ian Mcculloch


Label: spinART
US Release Date: 2003-05-06
UK Release Date: 2003-04-28

After successfully returning to the gist of what Echo and the Bunnymen made so cool in the mid- to late-eighties, Ian McCulloch or "Mac" has returned to a solo album, his first since the rather messy Mysterio in 1992. While his other partner in EATB, guitarist Will Sergeant, makes ambient tunes in his solo Glide project, the lead singer is intent on making a better solo effort. "There may be no Will, but there's a lot of willpower," McCulloch quips in the press kit. With the help of Coldplay singer Chris Martin and Johnny Buckland, McCulloch has created a grand pop rock album that wastes no time revving its engine.

The introductory "Love in Veins" features a bouncy backbeat and just enough crunchy guitars that make it quite catchy. And unlike some tracks McCulloch has done, the chorus is as strong as the verses. Lead guitarist Pete Bryne weaves a simple yet elegant magic for the bridge and solo, leaving enough space for McCulloch to pick up where he left off. Moving things down a notch or two with "Playgrounds and City Parks", McCulloch relives his early childhood while Ceri James plunks the piano. "You never win and you can't beat what's broken", he sings in his trademark style, sounding as fresh as he did two decades ago. There's a certain soulful feeling to the song as well, whether it's the bass line or the backing harmonies kept in the distance. Another asset McCulloch keeps it simple, knowing when to cut the fat from a song, resulting in few if any lengthy fading moments.

"Sliding" is another strong tune that features the Coldplay duo in fine form. Although it might not be the epic one anticipates given the combination, the simplicity and Beatles feeling (coming from the constant "la la la la la la" or the give and take harmonies concluding the tune) makes it a quick favorite. "Baby Hold On" has a distinctive Lou Reed or Velvet Underground bass line winding throughout as McCulloch repeats the title. The soul quotient is also held high here as it contains the "slow dance at the prom" swoon feeling without the waltz-like arrangement. The flow of the song is another asset, making the near four minutes seem like basically no time at all. "Arthur" is a mid-tempo track that is dreamy to a possible fault. "Live and die with me / What I wouldn't give now", he sings as Martin chips in with adorable harmonies.

The heart of the album lies in "Seasons", a song you don't want to end so you keep hitting replay just before it concludes. Not too highbrow but not exactly appealing to the current buying demographics, the song has a slight Beatles "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" quality to it before Bryne adds some basic riffs on top. If there's one flaw to the song, it might be the lack of some editing, allowing the "do do do do"s to go on just a tad too long. "Another Train" is probably the one curveball on the record. Coming off a bit like Travis or Cast, the song isn't as biting as it could be as it changes gears often. The lightweight feeling oozing from it makes the structure seem a bit odd throughout. Thankfully, the murky and dirty "High Wires" or "Some Kinda Love" (depending on what track listing you look at), is another catchy head-bobbing number with McCulloch doing his best impression of Britney Spears and her heavy panting during "Slave for You". The handclaps only add to the "good times" aspect of it.

"She Sings (All My Life)" returns to a similar sound but the overall vibe can't be denied. Working against his own harmony, McCulloch sounds as if he has saved the good stuff and left the Bunnymen with leftovers. The lyrics aren't the deepest, but if it ain't broke don't fix it. "Stake Your Claim" concludes the dazzling record with a glorious return to what made Mac so damn cool in the first place. It's his best solo record. Okay, he's only had three, but this is classic McCulloch in a contemporary model.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.