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Record Review 

Unbeknownst to most non-Anglophiles, Echo & the Bunnymen not only reformed in 1997, but have been quietly releasing music as accomplished as that of their '80s peak. Flowers -- their third album of new material in four years -- finds singer/songwriter Ian McCulloch and guitarist Will Sergeant settling into a rich, mature sound at one with the angst-ridden melancholy that sounded so fresh when they cranked out classics like "Do it Clean," "The Cutter" and "The Killing Moon." While nothing here pulses with the disillusionment and sweeping melodies of those songs (or most of the contents of their recently released box set retrospective), the group has crafted an album that successfully refracts the band's past through the prism of age.

They haven't forgone their Velvets, Television and Doors infatuations; Flowers' "Buried Alive" borrows liberally from "Sweet Jane." But instead of kicking out the jams in terse, brittle motifs, McCulloch reverts to a less tormented approach. Songs slow-burn atop often religious lyrical references ("King of Kings," "An Eternity Turns"), inferring more than they explain as McCulloch's disaffected swoon arcs through with sensitivity. The old "Rescue" fire sizzles on "Everybody Knows," as Sergeant whips out a clipped solo reminiscent of the old days while the band maintains an edgy, mellifluous groove.

Like roses, the Echo & the Bunnymen of Flowers temper their beauty with a prickly stem, affirming their status as elder statesmen who refuse to wither with age.

Echo & the Bunnymen play Thurs., Nov. 15, at EarthLink Live.

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