23 June 2013

Eureka Machines - Remain In Hope

Sometime around 2005, I was one of several people of dubious personal hygiene that were crammed into a sweaty little venue to see a crazy Japanese rock band called Electric Eel Shock. The support was someone neither myself nor any of my companions had ever heard of. A band called Robochrist.

Robochrist turned out not to be a band at all but a single person. Spray painted silver from his Mohican adorned head to his moonbooted feet, he churned out pseudo-industrial riffs under a bizarre array of samples such as: Simon Cowell, Grange Hill, Rainbow (the kids show not Ronnie James Dio’s old band) and Johnny Vegas. At the end of his final ‘song’ he threw his guitar to the floor, stormed offstage and out of the venue without a word.

 I had no idea what to make of it, it felt more like we’d all been spying on a teenager fiddling with himself rather than watching a musician play some songs.  The whole, weird experience had made me feel uncomfortable, confused and guilty but, at the same time, I’d actually quite enjoyed it. Much in the way I imagine it would feel after having sex with a goat.  
Years later and Chris Catalyst (Robochrist’s secret Identity) is now fronting a proper band in the form of Eureka Machines. Based in Leeds, UK, They deal in big poppy choruses, sugary harmonies and eclectic, punk influenced rock riffs.  Remain In Hope is their third album and almost wasn’t made. After disappointing sales of their second album Champion The Underdog and a general feeling of despondency and lack of interest, the band seriously considered calling it a day. After seeing the success of Ginger Wildhearts success on the Pledge Music site they decided to give it a pop and see what happens.

What happened was they easily met their target and more besides. They used the extra money to make the best album they could possibly make; they also donated 10% of everything they made to Tim Smith of the Cardiacs (He is currently paralysed following a heart attack induced stroke). Pledgers were also treated to several bonus tracks and an acoustic album as thanks for contributing.

The extra work, care and money put in to this album really shows, it’s much more accomplished than its predecessor, the production is fantastic, the music sounds crisp but warm and the harmonies shine through.

 The song writing is also exceptional.  Each time I listen to Remain In Hope I think the track I’m listening to is probably my favourite right up until the next track starts. Pop Star is a joyous ode to the desperate and futile quest for fame. It’s, unsurprisingly, the poppiest song on the album and is full of self-deprecating lyrics such as “I’d sell my soul if I’d get more than 50p”.

Love Yourself (spiritually not the dirty way) , Getting Away and None Of The Above, in contrast, are riff-laden monsters but still pleasantly catchy and singalong; Like a slicker, less abrasive Wildhearts, a description which fits the band as a whole pretty well.  

Album highlight, Affluenza features musical contributions from Willie Dowling (Ex: The Wildhearts, Honeycrack and the recently deceased Jackdaw4) and a curious ‘pick pock’ keyboard refrain. It’s a slow burner but after a few listens has become my probably favourite.

The album closes with another very strong track, the mid-paced, anthemic, Eternal Machines. It’s a mini autobiographical account of the band and a paean to struggling through in the face of adversity. Whilst it’s essentially a positive song, there’s a sense of the bittersweet about it too; A feeling of melancholy, like the final words of a dying man. It’s a moving song and a perfect album closer.

I do have two, minor, gripes with Remain In Hope. The first is the opening track, Good Guys Finish Last, a slow, 50’s style pop ballad. It’s not a bad song by any means but it sounds incongruous as an album opener and would have been better served further down the track listing.

The second thing is the inclusion of Living In Squalor. It’s bouncy rocker with an infectious chorus and a riff that brings to mind If Life Is Like A Lovebank… by, again, The Wildhearts. It’s a strong song but had previously been released as a B-side. Given that they had offered up several bonus tracks to Pledgers, I can’t help but feel like these two songs could have been exchanged with some of the bonus ones, such as the excellent Born Ready, Scapegoats or maybe even their cover of David Bowie’s Heroes.
As I said though, these are minor things and I’m being overly critical of an album it’s very hard to be critical of.
I ‘m very glad they got to make it and I’ll be first in line should they start another Pledge campaign for their fourth album.
9/10 Almost Perfect

You can watch the, award winning, video for Pop Star here

Listen to it on Spotify here

Buy it from Bandcamp here

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