Sunday, January 15, 2006

Ocean Rain

For rock albums, iconic images of the band/artist have usually been so important that any landscapes are relegated to something like the Renaissance parergon, a secondary feature. To the extent that rock is the ‘sound of the city’, rural or wild landscapes would normally be inappropriate. However, one band who specialised in landscape settings were Echo and the Bunnymen (see for example the images on Villiers The covers of their albums Crocodiles and Ocean Rain retain a theatrical quality, with colourfully lit landscapes serving as backdrops for the band. But Heaven Up Here and Porcupine are dominated by sublime landscapes: the windswept beach and the frozen glacier. The band actually recorded their video for ‘The Cutter’ in Iceland and embarked on a tour in 1983 taking in Iceland, Denmark and the Isles of Skye and Lewis.

In his book Rip it up and Start Again: Post Punk 1978 – 1984, Simon Reynolds notes that the Bunnymen were not alone in using dramatic landscape imagery. The Blue Orchids, who toured with the Bunnymen, eschewed a band photograph in favour of a simple sunset on their album The Greatest Hit. And in the early eighties many British bands were using rather nebulous elemental lyrics: ‘Under a Blood Red Sky’, ‘The Whole of the Moon’, ‘Fields of Fire (400 Miles)’. Perhaps it was in part a reaction to the bleak urban imagery that had dominated songs by The Clash, The Fall and Joy Division.

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