Music

Future Bible Heroes: Eternal Youth

Adam Dlugacz

Future Bible Heroes

Eternal Youth

Label: Instinct
US Release Date: 2002-08-20
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

Despite what you may think, Future Bible Heroes are not ultramodern evangelists sent to save us from the vileness of modern society. Rather, they are another one of singer/songwriter Stephin Merritt's bazillion creative outlets. To say that Stephin Merritt is a prolific songwriter is a bit like saying the New York Yankees are a successful team -- neither claim does justice. Merritt, is the brainchild behind the incomparable Magnetic Fields, as well as the 6ths, Gothic Archie's and 1,000 other efforts. Amazingly, Merritt has always managed to maintain a level of quality that always seems to vary between mind blowing brilliance and very good. The Bible Heroes are Merritt's lo-fi synth outlet, with their 1997 debut Memories of Love ranking amongst his best works.

Now, despite the hours I've spent listening to Merritt's work I am going to commit indie rock blasphemy. Merritt may be the finest songwriter of the last 10 years, he may be the underground Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra and Otis Redding wrapped in one -- but Eternal Youth is not very good. In fact, since the release of his opus 69 Love Songs he's been on a slippery slope. Perhaps, when he released the 6ths sophomore effort Hyacinths and Thistles hot on the heels of 69 Love Songs disappointment was to be expected. After all, most artists have trouble coming up with 12 good songs and Merritt had flawlessly written three albums worth all at once. But now, it's going on three years since his finest hour and one would think he'd have plenty of time to replenish his cache of songs.

Other than the 6ths, this is the first Merritt project since the Magnetic Fields debut albums Distant Plastic Trees and The Wayward Bus, on which he doesn't sing. Instead, he hands the reins over to frequent collaborator, Claudia Gonson, who handles vocal duties on all 16 tracks. Gonson's voice is a fine mix between beautiful and utilitarian and she's able to pull off the songs about missed or lost love well. The problem is that Merritt does not really give her anything to work with.

Eternal Youth is mostly comprised of recycled '80s beats and what sound like Depeche Mode and Erasure out-takes, rarely displaying Merritt's flair for pop exploration. At times the Future Bible Heroes sound like mid-'80s imitators Anything Box, the only thing missing is the bad Flock of Seagulls haircuts. The fourth track, "A Thousand Lovers in a Day", may be the worst song Merritt has ever penned, with Gonson droning over a mind numbingly boring track that goes no where. "Smash the Beauty Machine" sounds like Erasure trying to write a theme song for an episode of The Love Boat. What's most shocking is the number of forgettable tracks, something Merritt typically manages to avoid. Meanwhile, the 30-second sonic snippets that are thrown in between tracks begin to get annoying by the second time through.

Of course true genius cannot be completely stifled. Even if this is one of Merritt's weakest efforts, it has its moments. The opening number "Losing Your Affection" features the classic Merritt refrain "I would rather rub the hair of a bear in her lair in the opposite direction / I would rather put the make on a rattlesnake / Than be losing your affection". His unique life view that the key to happiness is success at love and in the sack, is once again on fine display. Merritt's recognition that a large part of human motivation comes from the loins has always made his songs feel so true. His commitment to those beliefs has added to his appeal by making him sound like Morrissey without the guilt. Merritt also scores on "I'm a Vampire" where he details the love life of the Queen of the Dead who can kill at will but can't find a good lay. Finally, on "From Dying Stars" his use of synthesizers recaptures some of the naïve magic of his seminal releases.

Eternal Youth is a mixed bag and strictly for Merritt extremists. While it has its moments, they never soar as high as the bad moments swing low. It would be easy to claim that Merritt shot his load with 69 Love Songs, but I doubt that's the case, Merritt's simply too good for that. However, unless you can't live without every Merritt effort steer clear of Eternal Youth.

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less
10

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image