One for Friday: Ian McCulloch, “Proud to Fall”

One of the aspects of my personal era of college radio that I found interesting was the pronounced sense that the first wave of great left of the dial artists was coming to an end. By the time I landed there in the fall of 1988, it was already understood that Hüsker Dü and The Smiths were no more, for example. Several other bands that were mainstays of the college charts also seemed on the verge of calling it quits. In some ways, this made it feel like we’d just missed the Golden Age of our preferred music, but there was also some excitement over seeing what the individual musicians from the bands in question would do once untethered from their cohorts. Certainly, every new Morrissey solo release was greeted with swooning adoration by a certain section of music fans. There was also a great, gratifying tension in the race between Grant Hart and Bob Mould to prove who was the more pertinent creator within Hüsker.

Every solo release provided the opportunity for a familiar discovery. The music was usually distinctively new, but also had clear threads that lead back to the former band. I remember Marty Willson-Piper’s records as spooky echoes of The Church and Daniel Ash heightening the bloody-lipped, lurking aggression of Love and Rockets on his solo debut. Yes, there were all new artists to follow too, but it was fun simultaneously monitoring this reboot of the college rock scene that started a decade earlier. Sometimes, the solo work even helped me find my way back to bands I had foolishly dismissed.

Ian McCulloch was the lead singer for the band Echo and the Bunnymen, a group that was soundly ignored by the version of me that awkwardly tried to don cool kid armor in high school. I mean, just look at the name of that band. Besides, I was attuned enough to the judgmental part of the music scene to know that the band’s self-titled 1987 effort was deemed a sell-out, probably more on the basis that it was their most commercially successful than anything actually contained within the grooves of the vinyl. I wasn’t, as far as I could tell, supposed to like them.

But I did like McCulloch’s first solo album, Candleland, released in the fall of 1989. The lead single was especially good. “Proud to Fall” was lush and rich and built on an insinuating hook. It had a moody romanticism that matched who I was–or at least who I imagined myself to be–pretty well at the time. Eventually, I decided that if I liked that then maybe, just maybe I’d like those old Echo and the Bunnymen records after all. Several of those album now sit comfortably on my CD shelf. That’s the thing that’s forgotten about gateways: the usually allow for travel through them in more than one direction.

Ian McCulloch, “Proud to Fall”

(Disclaimer: Though it appears that Candleland has been reissued in a few different derivations, it also looks to me like it’s currently completely out of print. It’s entirely possible that this has landed on some sort of wide-ranging Echo and the Bunnymen compilation, but I’m not going to dig that deep. Instead, I’ll just offer up my usual promise. Should anyone with due authority to request the removal of this track from the Interweb contact me making such a demand, I will promptly and gladly comply.)

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