Review Summary: Don't even bother.
After the relative commercial and critical failure of Echo & the Bunnymen's eponymous 1987 album (AKA The Grey Album), founding member and frontman Ian McCulloch duly departed to concentrate on his solo career. Shortly after that in 1989, The Bunnymen also suffered the tragic loss of their drummer Pete de Freitas via a horrific motorcycle accident. To all intents and purposes, the band really should have called it quits at that point. The remaining members had other ideas however, and instead recruited ex St. Vitus Dance singer Noel Burke to replace McCulloch as the Bunnymen's frontman.
It was a stupid idea. Echo & The Bunnymen sans Ian McCulloch just isn't Echo & the Bunnymen. He was absolutely vital to what the Bunnymen were, what they sounded like and the aura they exuded. As McCulloch later commented himself;
"I think it's pretty obvious what I think. Noel Burke... the name says it all really doesn't it. No, that's not fair. It wasn't his fault, it was Will and Pete who were the berks really. But no, I thought it was disgraceful and after that I suppose it was quite surprising that I continued working with Will after that. I'm glad I did though. Johnny Marr called them Echo and the Bogusmen when that happened."
Burke, for his part, wasn't a terrible singer. His technique was fine and his delivery also had it's own smooth charm. But it wasn't McCulloch and it wasn't Echo & the Bunnymen. Thus the resulting LP Reverberation was widely frowned upon and dismissed. These days it languishes forgotten and ignored. Reverberation is very much persona non grata in Bunnymen land.
The first few tracks on the album lull you into a false sense of security by actually being quite good. Openers 'Gone, Gone, Gone' and 'Enlighten Me' twist Will Sergeant's fetish for eastern guitar riffs into some interesting new shapes. Atmospheric album highlight 'King Of Your Castle' features a catchy vocal line wrapped around yet more of those delicious eastern squalls.
Unfortunately, the quality isn't maintained over the course of the record and it sharply drops into anodyne tedium. Through the majority of it's runtime, Reverberation sounds more like a poor imitation of '80s R.E.M than the fiery post-punk of yore. Again, that's a POOR imitation. This album is nowhere near the quality of anything R.E.M put out during the 1980s. Not even remotely. Songs like 'Devilment', 'Senseless' and 'Freaks Dwell' all jangle along in typical fashion without any particular flavour or hooks. They're utterly unmemorable and totally pointless.
The low point comes in the shape of the late album ballad 'Flaming Red'. It's a repellingly boring song, with a ceaseless vocal pattern that aims for brooding but hits queasily annoying instead. McCulloch must have rolled his eyes at that one. Add to that some really half-hearted instrumentation and you have something that begs to skipped rather than simply endured.
And that is exactly the right expression for this LP. Endured. Reverberation is an LP you have to endure rather than enjoy. There may be occasional flashes such as 'Enlighten Me' and 'King Of Your Castle', but this record is ultimately a complete waste of time. It has rightly found its place as the nadir of Echo & the Bunnymen's discography. So here's to Reverberation! Long may it be forgotten and ignored.