Echo & the Bunnymen had proven themselves to be one of the most creative, innovative bands of the early-mid ’80s post-punk scene. After going through a substantial amount of turbulence since those days with the untimely death of their drummer, Pete de Freitas, as well as the band’s mastermind vocalist, Ian McCulloch, launching a solo career, the Bunnymen’s future was uncertain. All of that uncertainty came to an end in 1997, when the Bunnymen, led by a rejuvenated McCulloch, came storming back on the scene with the release of ‘Evergreen’, a mostly triumphant comeback record. Led by such powerhouse tracks as “Nothing Lasts Forever” and “I Want to Be There (When You Come)”, it was clear that the Bunnymen had returned with a vengeance and a distinctly ’90s alternative rock attack. Where would this lead them into their next record, ‘What Are You Going to Do with Your Life’, released in 1999?
From the opening seconds of the title track, it’s clear this is going to be a much lighter record than its predecessor. Less focused on making a comeback statement that they still rock, perhaps, the feeling on this record is much more somber, much more intimate, and much more personal. Ian McCulloch proves once again that he can write melodies that evoke emotional responses from listeners, and THAT is the key to this record. Although it’s technically a Bunnymen record, this record feels very much like a McCulloch solo record. It also provides some of best tunes in the Bunnymen’s catalog, “Rust” and “Baby Rain”, most notably. However, this record is not flawless. It has a sluggish middle-section that leaves you wondering if McCulloch was making a mistake in not utilizing the rest of the Bunnymen’s strengths. If your favorite thing about the Bunnymen is guitarist Will Sergeant and his unique guitar sound, for example, this record may not be for you. There is practically no Sergeant to be heard on it. The moments that this record drops off into bland territories serve as a reminder of this fact. Luckily, the record does pick back for the last two tracks, “When It All Blows Over” and “Fools Like Us”. You didn’t expect someone with the shamanic and poetic tendencies of Ian McCulloch to be out for the count for too long, did you?
Bottom line: If you like Ian McCulloch’s solo material and like his poetry, you’ll probably find this record to your liking. If you’re someone who mostly likes the Bunnymen’s older, classic material and don’t care so much for McCulloch’s solo records, you might not like this record. For those who are fans of the Bunnymen catalog, through and through, this will be a rewarding record.