Future Bible Heroes are yet another project powered by the indefatigably prolific songwriter Stephin Merritt. His last major endeavor was a three-CD Magnetic Fields outing titled 69 Love Songs that featured 69 love songs. But even that wasn’t enough to tire his puckish if somewhat droll muse. It did, however, send him back to the relative comfort of Future Bible Heroes, the most collaborative and genre-specific of all the recording projects he has active. If 69 Love Songs was an exercise in both endurance and flexibility — the song forms he used to reach his magic number ranged from punk salvos to swinging Bacharachian jazz pop — then Eternal Youth is more about staying within the bounds of one very recognizable style associated with one very memorable era, if only because A Flock of Seagulls had such imaginative stylists.
The name of the game here is new wave, as in programmed analog synths, electronically sequenced rhythm patterns, and all manner of bleeps and blips. Casio keyboards, Roland drum machines, Atari video games, and synths worn like guitars are some of the conceits conjured by Future Bible Heroes, who on their second full-length again have Boston-based DJ Chris Ewan and Magnetic Fields drummer and occasional singer Claudia Gonson collaborating with Merritt on what really do sound like vintage recordings made with vintage equipment from the early to mid ’80s. There may be a few too many playfully self-indulgent passages where Merritt and Ewan merely coax silly little sounds out of their battery of synths. But Eternal Youth also features some of Merritt’s finest songwriting, his maudlin moods inspiring the kind of witty wordplay and memorable melodies that have put him in the running as indie rock’s greatest living songwriter. "Doris Daytheearthstoodstill," which sports a sci-fi edge to complement its retro-futuristic feel, may be the perfect Future Bible Heroes tune. The equally wry "I’m a Vampire" is another standout, though Merritt might have thought to save that one for one of his other projects — the Gothic Archies.