Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
Echo & the Bunnymen formed in Liverpool in the late ‘70s. Vocalist Ian McCulloch had been in a band with Julian Cope and Pete Wylie. McCulloch recruited underrated guitarist Will Sergeant and bassist Les Pattinson; and yes, there was a drum machine involved prior to Pete de Freitas joining in 1980. Was this the “Echo” in Echo & the Bunnymen? That depends on who you ask. The band’s best quality output came over their first seven years and five albums. An output that brought critical acclaim and UK success, but little more than a cult following in the States.
“The Killing Moon” is the shining centerpiece of Echo & the Bunnymen’s best album, 1984’s Ocean Rain. Had the song appeared 25 years later, its legacy would no doubt have been instantly tarnished by being paired up with some romantic teen vampire movie. Everything came together for Echo in “The Killing Moon.” Will Sergeant’s opening guitar sets the scene in some exotic location; Ian McCulloch’s evocative vocals convey some of the band’s strongest lyrics; and the addition of strings adds further depth.
Picking five great covers out of the dozens available is a subjective and difficult task. The five offered below approach this iconic song from very different perspectives and offer quite the variety in the process.
MP3: Greg Laswell – The Killing Moon (Echo & the Bunnymen cover)
San Diego’s Greg Laswell presents a rather true cover with his vocals excelling in capturing the same feel that McCulloch brought to the original. Greg also posted an interesting video on the making of his cover.
MP3: Midway Still – The Killing Moon (Echo & the Bunnymen cover)
Early ‘90s British punk-popsters Midway Still will be our representative from the guitar and drum-driven cover category. They sacrifice some of the subtlety of the original, yet Midway Still is able to sustain energy and build momentum throughout the song.
MP3: Nouvelle Vague – The Killing Moon (Echo & the Bunnymen cover)
French collective Nouvelle Vague’s bossa nova style cover has the unexpected sound of stumbling upon a merry-go-round in a rain forest. Melanie Pain’s vocals are whimsical and atmospheric. There’s just enough interest here to keep Nouvelle Vague an arms-length away from the novelty song category.
MP3: Pavement – The Killing Moon (Echo & the Bunnymen cover)
Lo-fi indie heroes Pavement included a cover of “The Killing Moon” on their final studio recording, 1999’s Major Leagues EP. The cover is both sincere and silly. The guitar work is exceptional and nearly as expressive as Sergeant’s original work. Stephen Malkmus adds in a bonus, nonsense verse. (Perhaps a nod to ex-drummer Gary Young who was known to hand out cabbages at concerts.)
MP3: The Quakes – The Killing Moon (Echo & the Bunnymen cover)
Rockabilly Echo & the Bunnymen – who knew? The Quakes present a version about as subtle as the initial whiplash out of a rodeo chute on a bucking bronco. The drums pound like a hangover and the mood is transformed from reflective to rambunctious. These Psychobilly pioneers grew up on ‘80s New Wave and have put their spin on everything from Depeche Mode to Real Life.
Check out more Echo & the Bunnymen on their website.