A few lads from Liverpool get together to form a rock band. What do they call themselves? Not a chance -- far too conservative by new-wave standards. How about Echo and the Bunnymen?

Last night at the Bayou, the Bunnymen staged a small British invasion of their own, making their U.S. debut before a sizable crowd obvously familiar with their recordings. Their landing, however, was only partially successful.

The band's strengths and weaknesses surfaced in the sullen phrasing of lead vocalist Ian McCulloch. Within a limited range, he can be quite effective. His method of reciting a lyric at the top of his lungs -- often recalling Jim Morrison's powerful approach -- sustained the group for much of its set.

Other times, though, McCulloch lacked the range or desire to alter the pace. During those moment it was lead guitarist Will Sergeant's evocative lines (everything from Dwayne Eddy's twangy fills to a bit of psychedelic-era revisionism) as well as Pete Defreatis' four-square drumming that kept everyone on the dance floor hopping.

R.E.M., the local band that opened the show, also won the crowd over with little difficulty. Their songs, generally laced with taut rhythms and provocative lyrics, showed considerable promise.