Echo and the Bunnymen: Villiers Terrace
illiers Terrace” is the sort of song that induces night sweats and paranoia. Allegedly the servant-in-the-hall perspective of the Munich Dictate, the song describes the aftermath of Hitler’s quiet acquisition of Czechoslovakia. The first domino to fall after the Anschluss, Hitler overjoyed after securing a bloodless victory over territory that ensured a broader front against countries to the immediate south and east. Immediately thereafter, Hitler foamed in an epileptic celebration: his body rolling about on the floor, tongue lolling out of his head, such was his glee. His vision of the Third Reich one step closer to realization, an idea with such rabid potency that it consumed him; his superego shattered, his ego sublimated, while his id expressed itself carnally like a wild dog rolling in a fetid carcass to mark its kill.
Forty years on, Ian McCulloch made his own mark. “Villiers Terrace” bears the unmistakable urgency of being there. Whether it was one man observing civilization’s rapid decline of secular humanism or a scene of utter depravity in a junkie’s shuttered apartment, it’s the notional successor to the Beatles’ “Glass Onion”. But rather than “looking through the bent backed tulips / To see how the other half live” the narrator has “been up to Villiers Terrace / To see what’s happening” for himself, the frightful desperation hammered out on piano keys.
Such a loss of innocence proved significant to the band as they ascended hubristically into Britain’s rock pantheon like their Liverpudlian predecessors. Years before their self-satisfied ossification, “Villiers Terrace”, as Crocodiles centerpiece, exemplified the art of pop revisionism; by borrowing heavily from psychedelia yet remaining within post-punk values in fashion, tone and content, Echo and the Bunnymen experienced a moment’s success, only to find themselves astride the mainstream and in that moment be overwhelmed by shoegaze’s impenetrable wail and Bono’s sheer determination to conquer the world one album at a time. Having had a bitter taste of their own medicine, it is with no uncertain Schadenfreude that these lesser men are borne up to ride with pop’s Valkyries.
By: J T. Ramsay
Published on: 2004-12-08