Eureka Machines ‘Remain In Hope’ (Wrath Records, via Pledge Music)
As anyone who’s been exposed to their previous albums or gigs will know, Eureka Machines are one of those rare bands who seem incapable of writing anything other than highly catchy pop rock anthems. You know, the sort you wish you heard when you turn on the radio. The sort you wish that you could write. The one that’s in your head as you wake up, but you can never really nail down and bring to life.
Third album ‘Remain In Hope’, their first using Pledge Music, builds on their previous two, taking band and listener to the giddy heights that only talent and an attention to detail can bring. The songs are even catchier, the production richer without losing their edge, and the ideas more varied. And you still haven’t heard it? Shall we begin?
‘Good Guys Finish Last’ opens the album in glorious style. A gentle, almost Lennonesque intro builds into a song for the underdogs. “Insolvent, disappointment, not sure I’d stand employment” almost feels like an ending, but this is the sound of a band standing together, the last gang in town.
Next up is ‘Pop Star’, the song that’s been wedged in my brain since seeing the now award-winning video on YouTube. It sums up the band; not taking themselves seriously, but serious about the songs. “Who, in possession of all their relevant faculties, would actually WANT to be a pop star?” writes Chris Catalyst in the liner notes. With a poke at the dire reality of standing in the talent show queue “for the fifty seventh time”, this has more pop hooks than any such programme could dream of.
‘Love Yourself’ is an ode to just that. No, you’re making your own smutty jokes here. If only we could treat ourselves better; “you’re just a shadow of your future self”. Optimism and hope set to another earworm of a tune. I LOVE this song.
‘Getting Away’ was written when Chris was 15. The guitars and harmony vocals soar. On this evidence, I hope he’s kept every scrap of paper from that era. About men and sheds, apparently. Simple, effective and insistent.
‘Affluenza’ has the intelligent pop credentials of Honeycrack, and the legend that is Willie Dowling has had a hand in providing strings, keyboards and his customary magic across the album. They suit each other well. Berating the homogenisation of art and general lack of risk-takers out there, whilst never losing sight of the melody.
‘Believe In Anything’ could possibly be a side one closer on vinyl. Almost mantra-like, it asks the listener to question what they are fed as absolute truth. Be informed, find the truth yourself. The ending has a whiff of Cardiacs about it; clearly a very good thing.
So, in my mind at least, on to side two. ‘None Of The Above’ is another insistent riff, with horns in a Rocket From The Crypt style. “Don’t be the silent majority” state the liner notes. When every decision we make seems pointless, it urges you to keep thinking, and to be true to what you believe. Or, you could just jump around the kitchen to it. I like doing both.
‘Wish You Were Her’ is a simpler song, at first glance. Wishing you were with someone else, the notes state that it’s about “wishing you were with less tedious people”, rather than simply escaping a relationship. When I first heard this song on their Pledge-only acoustic album, I wasn’t sure it fitted, but on the full electric album, it’s really become a grower. It benefits from the lushness of the production.
‘Living In Squalor’ starts with a verse which wouldn’t be out of place in The Wildhearts; another positive sign of Chris Catalyst’s varied career. Once again, there’s a hint of Honeycrack’s melodies, but it still manages to sound like Eureka Machines. “I’ve got champagne dreams, but lemonade pockets”, they find time to give respect to Chas and Dave’s song writing skills of social commentary. Quite right.
‘Break Stuff’ has a timely quote to “Thatcher’s children’s children” and the love of hit-and-hope, lottery inspired dreams. Set to an increasingly beautiful tune, it becomes an anthem at the irony of rioting as protest against having few prospects. The piano-led ending is gorgeous.
And so it closes with ‘Eternal Machines’, and I’ve already used ‘anthem’. Damn! This is a fabulous way to end your album. It reminds me of so many great albums, in that the band have created something quite special and timeless. This is part thank you to the followers, part band philosophy of standing strong in the face of indifference. “We sing the songs that nobody sings”; Eureka Machines sing the songs that I, for one, wish I could write. In an ideal world, this would be what you hear on the radio.