Ever since “Crocodiles” — the 1980 debut of his English art-rock outfit Echo and the Bunnymen, which hits The City this weekend — the singer-lyricist has clouded the personal in oblique metaphors, and rarely lets his guard down in snarky interviews that earned him the nickname “Mac the Mouth.”
But with the band’s new Youth-produced effort “Meteorites,” featuring the aqueous textures of guitarist Will Sergeant, the secretive Liverpudlian is finally opening up — in ways so startling, it feels like a tabloid confessional.
It begins with the opening title track, in which McCulloch moans “Hope, where is the hope in me?/ Can it be found, among all the ghosts in me?”
The sentiment descends into self-recrimination on “Constantinople” (“All the things I did/ Horrified, horrified/ All the things I hid/ Mr. Hyde, Mr. Hide”), “Burn it Down” (“Flew too close to the sun/ Before I’d become what can’t be undone”), and the bluntly-titled “Is This a Breakdown?”
Eventually, a new, unfamiliar humility overtakes him In “Grapes Upon the Vine”: “I’ve been kneeling to a power up above/ As the ceiling crashes down on all I love.”
“I think this is the first album since ‘Ocean Rain’ where every breath, every letter, every sentence, word and melody line has counted for me,” says McCulloch, 55. “There are no jokey, smartass things on there, no saccharine. And there are quite a few different levels to it — it can sound hopeless and hopeful, and kind of grateful, then grateful in its greatness. Ultimately, it’s about creation and the fact that I can still do it. When I put my heart and soul and mind to it, I can create songs.”
“Meteorites” is rooted in despair. Since he was 10, the frontman says, waves of depression would descend on him from out of nowhere. The older he got, the longer they lasted, and the deeper into melancholia they dragged him.
After awhile, he gave up fighting and simply accepted these bouts with sadness as his lot in life. “But I went through such a long one recently that it didn’t seem to have an end,” he says. “So I’m not sure how good of a physician-heal-thyself guy I am. But I feel like writing the song itself helps me loads.”
The Bunnyman has acquired techniques for hopping out of the way of approaching ennui. He eats healthier, keeps his mind occupied with crossword puzzles and has given up drinking. Well, almost. “Obviously, I’m not ready to stop having my foamy pint in the pub,” he admits. “But it’s very rare now.”
IF YOU GO
Echo and the Bunnymen
Where: Regency Ballroom, 1300 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Saturday
Contact: (415) 673-5716, www.axs.com