Review Summary: Stranded somewhere in the middle of the poppy strewn, tie-dyed road.
One great thing you can say about Echo & the Bunnymen is that they never made the same album twice. Their records were always shifting in styles, continually confounding people's expectations. One of the sharpest left turns the band ever made was right here on Flowers, where they careened full tilt into 1960s psychedelia.
It wasn't a half measure, either. This is a cohesive work made with a unified vision. As a band with two decades behind them at this point, major kudos are awarded for not simply resting on their laurels. Good intentions aside, however, and Flowers doesn't quite work as well as it wants to.
There are many good things to delve into on this LP, though. Most of the runtime is actually comprised of decent tunes. Twin singles 'Make Me Shine' and 'Its Alright' are nice places to start. The former is a wonderfully textbook bit of psychadelic pop, all backwards guitars and sunny melodies. The latter is one of the rockier tracks, featuring an insistant guitar riff and a catchy singalong chorus. It's unmistakably a Bunnymen song and makes for a delightfully autopilot slice of nostalgia.
Album highlight 'Hide & Seek' remembers Echo & the Bunnymen's post punk roots and implements it well. It's an oddly satisfying melding of ominous atmospherics and light, 1960s zither-like keyboard work. It shouldn't work but it really does. Mid album ballad 'Buried Alive' harks back to 'The Killing Moon' from Ocean Rain. It's a lovely throwback and has a very memorable, repeating guitar line that sticks in the memory long after the track has concluded. The title track 'Flowers' is also pretty great, with it's beautiful, lazy blues riffs becoming a real standout.
Alas, then the issues begin. Songs like the opening duo of 'King of Kings' and 'Super Mellow Man' are hazy, forgettable kaleidoscopic fluff. Not bad but not very good either. Likewise, the late album rocker 'Everybody Knows' stomps along nicely enough. But it also shares far too much in common with the following two tracks 'Life Goes On' and 'An Eternity Turns'. All those florid guitars start to sound tiring and indistinct. The similar pacing also doesn't help. It all gets a bit too cluttered and one note by the end.
Flowers is an album of individually good songs. Not great songs. Good songs. Or at the very least, decent songs. This LP doesn't have anything on it that would rank among the best Bunnymen tracks. 'Hide & Seek' and 'Flowers' come the closest but there isn't a 'Nothing Lasts Forever' or even a 'Rust' on here. The psychedelic nature of the album also overwhelms as the record progresses. It all gets a bit overcooked and busy. The last few songs on the LP are also relatively listless. It can be hard to stop your brain from switching off and disengaging when listening though the entirety of Flowers. But then again, after a few tokes on a lazy Sunday afternoon, having your brain switch off in a kaleidoscopic clambake really doesn't sound all that bad.