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A year ago, Ian McCulloch found himself in a dark place. After leading Echo & The Bunnymen through 35 years of epic highs and turbulent lows, the singer realised it was time to take a break and look inwards. Although the group’s last album, 2009’s ‘The Fountain’, had been enthusiastically received, McCulloch’s songwriting partnership with Bunnymen guitarist Will Sergeant had virtually ground to a halt. What’s more, years of rock excess and running away from personal problems had left him feeling adrift and unsettled. “I wasn’t happy with a lot of stuff,” admits the singer. “Emotionally I was at a very low ebb.”

Yet from this slough of despond, ‘Meteorites’ unexpectedly began to take shape. Holed up in his Liverpool flat, mired in self-reflection, McCulloch started writing music on a bass guitar that was lying around, a process that instantly proved cathartic and fruitful. “Straight away I felt better for it,” he explains. “I had been thinking of taking five years off on an island, or whatever, but suddenly all these songs came from nowhere. It was really exciting and fresh. This record’s about my personal journey, my rebirth, even if it is a Bunnymen record.”

‘Meteorites’ – the group’s eleventh studio album released 26th May on 429 Records/Caroline – does, indeed, sound like an exhilarating renaissance, an intricately crafted work with a poetic brilliance and emotional grandeur that places it on a par with the Bunnymen’s greatest records from the ‘80s and ‘90s, notably pysch-pop debut ‘Crocodiles’ (1980), the majestic ‘Heaven Up Here’ (1981), orchestral-rock masterpiece ‘Ocean Rain’ (1984) and Britpop-era comeback ‘Evergreen’ (1997).

For McCulloch, ‘Meteorites’ has been a journey of self-discovery that’s resulted in a record he rightly believes to be up there with the Bunnymen’s best – only more truthful, lyrically powerful and spiritually cleansing. “It’s been a way of dealing with where you’re at, though it doesn’t necessarily stop the pain,” he explains. “As a friend of mine says, ‘You’re never out of the woods.’ But now I’m doing it properly, I’m writing soliloquies up there with Shakespeare. I need to be as good as him, not some dickhead in a rock band.”