Second albums, like prodigal sons, have a long history of disappointing people. Even Van Halen couldn’t recapture the elusive magic that made them an international hit in less than 30 minutes on their debut. The Darkness too went over like a cheap deckchair in a storm when they tried to recreate the high-stepping bravura of album number one.
Enough people fell hard for Eureka Machines’s 2007 release, Do Or Die, and it wasn’t difficult to see why; Beach Boys harmonies, Joe Strummer’s guitar, what wasn’t to love? They, sensibly, have taken the best part of four years to conjure up album number two.
That kind of thinking can go one of two ways; Def Leppard’s Hysteria, or Def Leppard’s Slang – waiting doesn’t always pay off. Happily, for Eureka Machines, it sounds as though not a day away from the spotlight has been wasted. They’ve expanded on their first album, though not beyond recognition. Fans of the band won’t run away in horrified silence, arrangements are more inventive, melodies more durable, its impact more likely to sustain.
Those among you who remember Honeycrack’s darkly realised Prozaic album will likely revel in the occasionally bleak mutterings of songs like the quiet self-loathing of Professional Crastinator with its Johnny Marr-like guitar loop and unhappy mantra. It has no right to sound as immediate or compelling as it does, but that’s part of Champion The Underdog’s charms.
At first it’s not an easy listen, you have to work with it and occasionally listen hard for it to yield up its inner glories – but then when was anything great or good ever easy? Everything’s Fine shares some of Graham Gouldman and 10cc’s wry cynicism, multi-layered vocals and an uneasy desperation makes for the best pop. Ask The Posies; they did it for years. Eureka Machines are from Leeds, The Posies from Seattle; maybe it’s the low, rain-filled skies that do it?
It’s not all sublime gloom though, the first single, These Are The People Who Live In My House, is the kind of knockabout song that Terrorvision used to mine gold around the time of their How To Make Friends And Influence People album. The Best Night Of My Life rattles happily along, while Zero Hero is a strangely immediate and snappy sounding eight minutes plus.
It’s a rare gift the Eureka Machines have; celebrate it.