The most remarkable thing about Crocodiles is that the Bunnymen had their classic sound right from the start. It might be a little way off the perfection of Ocean Rain but it’s just as essential.
If you’re not super familiar with Echo & The Bunnymen, they’re a post-punk band like Joy Division or The Cure but with more Bowie and less hair.
Like most in the genre, Crocodiles is full of chunky basslines, slinky guitars, atmospheric keyboards, vocals with heavy echo and also some drumming. I believe there is also a spot of xylophone or some similar instrument in Pride. How exciting!
That’s not to say that this is a typical ’80s goth’ album though. The thing is, when you invent your own style of music, you can kind of do whatever you want with it. Crocodiles sounds fresh and exciting to this day because the assorted Bunnymen were innovating rather than assimilating.
There are always exceptions, of course. Producer David Balfe (from The Teardrop Explodes) pops in for a spot of Ray Manzareking on Villiers Terrace. It’s rare that such an obvious tribute can fit well in the middle of an original song but they pull it off here – while the song is not necessarily in the style of The Doors it’s not hard to imagine Jim Morrison hollering about how he’d “been up to Villiers Terrace, saw what was happenin’.”
This expanded edition doubles the length with out-takes, early versions and the entirety of live EP Shine So Hard. For once these are welcome and actually enhance the album experience as a whole. Isn’t that mental? There’s a nice little gap between the album proper and the bonus material so you can pretend you’re flipping a record if you really want to.
Do It Clean and Read It in Books were both on the original US release of the album but not the UK one because some Warner Bros. bigwig thought they had swears in them. Read It in Books is especially notable for being the one song that Ian McCulloch and Julian Cope wrote together before they hated each other to death – Cope’s version with The Teardrop Explodes features on their album Kilimanjaro.
Simple Stuff was the b-side to single Rescue but I’m pretty sure it should have been the other way around. The demo tracks that follow aren’t terribly different from the album versions apart from being a bit more stripped-down. It’s like seeing your school photos again – same songs, a little younger.
The live performances prove that not only could Echo & The Bunnymen do it live, they could do it BETTER too. What’s cool here is that we’ve got early versions of Zimbo (later retitled All My Colours) and Over The Wall from their next album, Heaven Up Here, alongside some absolutely smashing takes on Crocodiles and All That Jazz.
Shine So Hard is one of the few live recordings that truly seems to capture the chaotic feel of a real show, they may not be leaping about like they’re Slayer but the Bunnymen play with such intensity that you’re worried their instruments might fall to bits.
Crocodiles track list:
- Going Up
- Stars Are Stars
- Villiers Terrace
- Pictures on My Wall
- All That Jazz
- Happy Death Men
- Do It Clean
- Read It in Books
- Simple Stuff
- Villiers Terrace (early version)
- Pride (early version)
- Simple Stuff (early version)
- Crocodiles (live)
- Zimbo (live)
- All That Jazz (live)
- Over the Wall (live)