Looking at the name of this band and the title of their EP, I sense a logical contradiction. Superhero Eugene and The Orange Juice Sunshine Band released 'Dead Bears' at the end of December, six tracks of what they call 'folk country goth punk'. The connotations of their band name when compared to the genre and eponym of the EP seem at opposite ends of the spectrum, and this is reflected within the music for me. There seems to be an erratic lack of a strong central aim, almost as though the outfit cannot decide between themselves a core theme to explore, and so wander between a few. Individually almost every track here is great, but their amalgamation under one flag leads to subtle frictions in the group. The songs unify under one name, but in my opinion Superhero Eugene and The Orange Juice Sunshine Band haven't learnt what that should mean. An aesthetic should flow through a release without pause, marrying song with song as it travels with resolute direction. I'm not talking about variety within an album or EP, those interesting complexities that engage and retain your attention. Superhero Eugene has individuality emblazoned across his chest. I am not talking about sonic progression as you move through the tracks either. I'm talking about an intention. As I listened through 'Dead Bears', I didn't know what this band wanted me to feel. The sad lament of 'The Death Of Superhero Eugene Loveday' or that brilliantly happy tale of 'My Orange Balloon'. The word is inconsistent, but if Superhero Eugene and his crew can nail continuity then they're onto a surefire winner. Like I said before however, individually almost every one of the six tracks works magnificently, and I cannot hate them!
Opening the EP is 'The Cotton Bag', a three minute song with truly stunning lyricism. It doesn't seem to me to be as accessible as some of the other tracks, which makes placing it at the start a little strange, but as one of my favourites from Superhero Eugene I didn't mind. The production isn't as good as other numbers either, but something spectacular is added to the music through it. The drums are tribal, pounding below a sea of wailing violin as they clammer and roar. Matthew O'Toole's vocals are incredible, breaking at every turn with true passion. The cry of 'In the Cotton Bag' is outstanding, followed and preceded by lines like "a murder of crows, they're wings like woe". The image of a wood is painted, icy and dark and quietly terrifying. A time of witchcraft and demons and heroes emerges out of the music, and I love that! The catchy upbeat ethos surrounding 'Seaside Rain Cycling' is executed wonderfully. The need to kill this silly Sasquatch is relayed with such playfully happy instrumentation a beautiful smile erupts upon your face! 'The Death Of Superhero Eugene Loveday' flits again, back to this somber, violin-laden lament. Nobody sings as an incredibly revered man is lain to rest. Before he was just part of a band-name, but now the body of this man appears, and a tear falls from the corner of your eye, sliding slowly down your cheek. The band quickly recover and continue with a cover of the White Stripes' 'Do'. 'My Orange Balloon' follows. A startled look of surprise settled on my face. If you haven't listened to the previous tracks you wouldn't believe that this was the same band. "I hope it finds it's balloon world" goes one line, and "I think it fell in love with the magic moon" goes another. Its accordion and female vocals and rainbow-infused softness don't fit in with the EP. The singing of the ultimate number 'Sunset's Eyes' are simply heart-wrenching. You can see the tears roll down O'Tooles face and long pauses of instrumentation are brilliant!
However yes, the EP is in the end disappointingly inconsistent. While I enjoyed each of the tracks here on their own, I often felt as though the emotion I was feeling was wrenched away from me as Superhero Eugene and The Orange Juice Sunshine Band tried to throw too many different feelings, themes and emotions in at too many inappropriate times. You can stream 'The Cotton Bag' below and download the EP for free via the Bandcamp here!