The song is one of the Bunnymen’s best and one of their best known.
The entire album, to me, is a very spring-like affair. Maybe because it was released on May 4th, originally, and I’m sure I bought it that very month, week maybe. Porcupine had convinced me to pay attention to these guys and Ocean Rain, I have to admit, disappointed me slightly. The lyrics were so clear! I was getting used to the murky lyrics of the day and there’s not much to scratch your head over on Ocean Rain. That said, I saw the title track, today’s song, and “Nocturnal Me” as some of the best things they’d done. “Silver” and “Crystal Days” were pretty terrific too.
So, all due tribute to Mr. McCulloch. And did you hear? He’s getting the band back together. Well, not really the band—drummer Pete de Freitas died in 1989 and I don’t think bassist Lee Pattinson is up for it this time ‘round (there have been revivals before). But, in any case, if you “like” Echo & the Bunnymen on facebook you get updates in your feed telling you about Meteorites, the new Echo & the Bunnymen album which is out this month in UK and June in US. There have been a spate of “old home week” returns of late—Bob Mould’s got a new one, Camper van Beethoven too. Cool. We fifty-somethings got to stick together, sonny.
Anyway, when I used to make tapes for people—which I did a lot—songs from this album got good notices, especially with females. “The Killing Moon” has a sultry, coiled, ready-to-strike quality. It’s a bit, perhaps, like a long buildup to an orgasm—which does arrive at the end when McCulloch peaks on the great, oft-repeated line “fate up a-gaaaainst your will” and keeps it in a higher register for the whole chorus as though the pay-off of “his” wait has come (“He will wait until / You give yourself to him”). Those lines go ‘round and ‘round as though the song is actually wearing down “her” resistance.
Then he dives down into his lower register, relaying a sort of late-flowering menace. Like: told you so, you just lost it to him. What? Your innocence? Your very soul. Your so very prized self-possession? I guess it could be that kind of scenario.
Because it’s all so moonlight on the moors moody. Maybe that’s what’s wearing her down. Those strings keep things full of tension while lines like “So cruelly you kissed me / Your lips a magic world / Your sky all hung with jewels” give the song the ambiance of a Romance novel. “Too late to beg you or cancel it / Though I know it must be the killing time / Unwillingly mine.”
Which makes the opening seem like a very grudging surrender, and so he’s waiting for something a little more “fated,” shall we say. The song feels like a trance that keeps climbing, not letting you get out of it, only deeper into it. Until (maybe) at that peak when you (or she) realize that it is, though against your will, willed by fate. Darkly romantic, we might say.
The song has aura to spare, and that’s what I loved about Bucko and the boys, they had such bombast. McCulloch no doubt takes himself a bit too seriously, but when this song came out we were both about 25. That’s a good age to get swept off your feet, isn’t it? And it’s a song I still enjoy for its wonderful rendition of both the oppression of passion and the release of pent-up feelings via that “magic world.”