'80s Cage Fight: Echo & The Bunnymen's "Lips Like Sugar" vs ABC's "How To Be A Zillionaire"



Echo & The Bunnymen - Lips Like Sugar

I'll admit it, I wasn't a huge Echo & The Bunnymen fan until they released their self-titled 1987 album, which featured, among other stellar tracks, this wonderful bit of ear candy.  The more time goes by, the more I equate it to U2's Joshua Tree in breadth and scope.  Like U2 after War, the Bunnymen must certainly have felt they'd gone as far as they could go as a brooding post-punk band.

They could either continue to reign supreme as the fourth-biggest rock band in England (while continuing to play the same midsize U.S. clubs year in and year out) or they could up the ante and make THE ALBUM.

By THE ALBUM, I mean an obvious commercial stab that will, without a doubt, polarize your current fanbase while reaching out to the mainstream crowd.

After Ocean Rain, which, let's face it, sounded more like an ABC record (listen to "Silver" and tell me I'm wrong), one would not have blamed the band for attempting to recapture their harder-edged rock sound of 1980's Crocodiles.

Such a bid sounds like a recipe for disaster, but, in execution, it's a stroke of brilliance that makes one wish the rest of the album had been as unabashedly immediate because, in their hands, stadium rock has never sounded so good.



ABC - How To Be A Millionaire

From Martin Fry's opening declaration, "I've seen the future/I can't afford it", it was obvious this was a different ABC than the one that had cut the decidedly guitar-heavy dud, Beauty Stab.  The outlandishly over-the-top album How To Be A Zillionaire celebrated fae and fortune at its most fleeting with "So Hip It Hurts" and "How To Be A Millionaire", although its debatable how tongue-in-cheek such sentiments may have been in hindsight.

After all, the remaining duo of singer Martin Fry and guitarist/keyboardist Mark White had gone from trying to prove themselves as credible musicians to rounding out their new, video-centric line-up by adding non-musical members Fiona Russell-Powell and David Yarritu.

The move alienated their UK fans, but resulted in their breakthrough U.S. hit, the Top 20 "Be Near Me".  Meanwhile, "How To Be A Millionaire" ruled the dance floor.

For the most part, the song wouldn't have sounded out of place on Lexicon, but gone is the subtlety and nuance.  To put it another way, "The Look Of Love" was a slow seduction compared to "Millionaire's" cocksure grope in the coat room, not that there's anything wrong with that between consenting adults.

WINNER: "Lips Like Sugar"

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