THOUGH many of them have found the strength to tackle America's concert circuit this summer, the aging stars of British new wave sound a bit fatigued.
Despite a long layoff (their last album of new material dates from 1984), the new record from Liverpool psychedelic-revival survivors Echo and the Bunnymen doesn't have half the crackling energy of the quartet's 1980 debut, "Crocodiles." As for the new release from New Order, their tour- mates, it's a greatest-cult-hits double-album, "Substance," which contains only one new song, the current single "True Faith."
"Echo and the Bunnymen" occasionally takes flight, usually on songs like "All in Your Mind" where guitarist Will Sergeant is allowed to take the -- or at least a -- lead. Most of the time, though, those crucial guitars are kept on a short tether; the sound is clearly designed to showcase the melodramatic vocals and dubious lyrics of frontman Ian McCullough. As McCullough sings on "All My Life": "Oh how the times have changed us/Sure and now uncertain." That new maturity may make the Bunnymen better people, but it hasn't made for better records.
Those who've only heard a little New Order will find "Substance" the perfect introduction to the death-disco quartet's downbeat but danceable music. The album collects the outfit's most propulsive songs, including "Ceremony," "Temptation" and "Perfect Kiss," many never before available on album. Except for two songs that were remixed for this set, the package offers the original 12-inch mixes. These are generally superior to the album versions, which may come as a revelation to New Order neophytes. Faithful fans figured that out long ago, however, and probably already have not only most of these songs but also most of these mixes. ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN --
"Echo and the Bunnymen" (Sire 255971-1).
NEW ORDER --
"Substance" (Qwest 35621).
Both appearing Friday with Gene Love Jezebel at Merriweather Post Pavilion.