I’ve been listening to this song for 30 years now and I still have no idea what it’s about. At the time of its release I assumed it was about something deep, given that lead singer Ian McCulloch was obviously an intellectual. Except, as I later discovered, he was far from being an intellectual. I can’t remember where I read it (probably in one of Simon Reynolds’ essays on post-Punk) but he didn’t even like books. In fact, he was a bit of an oaf.
Except, of course, he wasn’t. He was great-looking and tortured-looking and was, from around 1982-1985, the model for 95% of skinny college boys. He looked the part. And with the Bunnymen’s lyrics, and with the forcefulness of his delivery, he certainly sounded the part.
Anyway. What matters here is that the song is a massive slab of tuneful bombast that grabs you by the throat and ears and doesn’t let up. The electric violin signals that we’re in for something grand, with slices of guitar, crashing guitars, a throbbing bassline, soaring horns and, above it all, McCulloch’s Valkyriean vocal. The best bit is when, without letting up on the energy, the song shifts to a different key and becomes something more joyous and, with McCulloch toning it down a bit, something a little more intimate. The bridge bit at 1:45: “Am I the happy loss, will I still recoil….”
It’s an utterly thrilling record and one that backs up McCulloch’s claim that Echo and The Bunnymen were the greatest band in the world. They weren’t, of course – but during The Cutter’s four minutes you might just be convinced that they were.