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‘Eureka’ and ‘Inside’: Exploring the Cause and Effect of Emotional Turmoil

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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UC Riverside chapter.

Content warning: themes of abuse, self-harm, sexual content, and violence will be discussed.

Mother Mother still has me in a musical chokehold, so this time around, I’ll be focusing on my two favorite albums from their discography — Eureka (2011) and Inside (2021). At first glance — and first listen — both albums couldn’t appear more different, but they tackle similar themes of emotional turmoil, with Eureka focusing more on turmoil caused by external factors, while Inside, quite fittingly, focuses on that which is caused by internal factors. Although I’d love nothing more than to dissect every single song on both albums, I’ve chosen to narrow my focus to three songs from each album that are not just some of my favorites, but also the ones I feel best represent the contrasting themes of emotional turmoil. Please note that my interpretations are my own, and I do not speak for the intentions of the songwriters.


Despite being an indie rock album like the rest of the entries in Mother Mother’s discography, many of the songs in Eureka have a decidedly more upbeat, almost poppy tone to them that does an excellent job of creating a dichotomy between the darker songs on the album. The rainbow-bright, technicolor album art also prepares listeners for the music to carry that same energy throughout the album.

“Born in a Flash”

“Born in a Flash” is one of the slower, more somber songs on the album, telling the story of a narrator who grew up in an abusive household, with their most traumatic moments captured in flash photography. The lyrics deal in contrasts, with the narrator remembering their family in “high contrast,” and their infancy in black and white.

The lyrics also keep details about the family intentionally vague, contributing to the narrative of the singer having a faulty memory caused by the abuse inflicted upon them by their family. This adds more weight behind the eponymous “born in a flash”, because every time a photograph of their family is taken, a new memory is “born” with the flash of a camera. The photos not only stand in as the narrator’s memories, they also serve to detail the narrator’s domestic abuse, with the photos presenting a “picture-perfect” family to the outside world to hide the rot beneath the surface.


“Oleander” is my favorite song on the entire album. The subject matter — a toxic, codependent relationship between an unnamed partner and the narrator, who repeatedly destroys everything in their general vicinity while simultaneously begging their partner not to abandon them — is depressing as hell, but the music is unique and intense compared to the rest of the album, and I love the extra sounds in the background that almost sound like alarms to signal how unhealthy and alarming the relationship is.

The other reason I love the song so much is because of the use of flowers and plants adding an extra layer of meaning to aspects of a story and its characters. Titling the song “Oleander” and directly comparing it to the singer was such a great choice because not only is the oleander extremely hardy and even considered invasive, they’re also extremely toxic, with a single leaf being capable of killing a fully-grown adult, which perfectly ties into the album’s themes of toxic relationships and emotional turmoil caused by things — or people — outside of one’s control.

“Calm Me Down”

In comparison, “Calm Me Down” has the narrator directly admitting that they’re mentally ill, singing about how they used to perform self-harm and now utilizes sex as a less harmful — but no less self-destructive—coping mechanism. The relationship between the singer and their sexual partner is likely still quite unhealthy, considering the latter is enabling the former’s unhealthy coping mechanisms, but unlike “Oleander”, the song focuses less on the imbalanced nature of their relationship in favor of offering the singer more interiority, granting the listener access to their thought processes while, presumably, the singer is still in the middle of having sex.

Contrary to the more tragic ending of “Oleander”, “Calm Me Down” ends with the narrator belting out about how they want to be a better person — to be a “good man”, a “sweet son”, and, most importantly, to be able to scream Eureka! and show how far they’ve come.


Right off the bat, Inside presents itself as an album that’s much darker in tone, and understandably so: Inside was released during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the album’s contents reflect that. The cover art is minimalistic, with only three lit candle wicks surrounded by total darkness, presumably to reflect not just the darker themes of the album, but the feeling of being cut off from the rest of the world, trapped in our homes in the dark with nowhere to go.

“Seven” & ”Two”

“Seven” is an instrumental piece that plays at the start of the album, and is named after the noise people made every Friday at 7pm for the essential workers and healthcare workers who were on the frontlines during the height of the pandemic.

The track is only two minutes long, and segues right into the next song on the album — which, quite fittingly, is called “Two”. The narrative of the song is that of a person who feels trapped inside their own head with no way out; they’re aware that no matter the mistakes they’ve made in the past, they’re still worthy of love and respect, but the only way to confront their inner turmoil is to take that first step and look inward.

The song’s story of hiding away from the world and turning inward isn’t as linear as some of the other songs on the album, but it is nonetheless well-defined and, as demonstrated by the last song on the album, contributes to the cyclical narrative of Inside as a whole.

“Until It Doesn’t Hurt”

What’s interesting about “Until It Doesn’t Hurt” is that it was first sung when the band’s lead singer, Ryan Guldemond, delivered a TED Talk in 2018 — two years before the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite that, the song still fits perfectly with the rest of the album, detailing the story of a narrator’s destructive urges and his choice to “stay inside” until the urges pass.

Many of the songs from Inside deal with the concept of turning inward and confronting both the best and worst parts of yourself, and resolving to change yourself for the better. But what I really like about the narrator of “Until It Doesn’t Hurt” is that they don’t seem to have any redeeming qualities, their only desire being the destruction of everything and everyone around them. However, the narrator still chooses to exercise self-restraint and isolate themself away from other people, tying into the larger discussion the album makes about loneliness — that being that anyone can choose to change for the better, no matter how awful they make themselves out to be.


The final, eponymous track draws the thematic and narrative arcs of the album to a close. Having begun the album with the initial realization that the narrator would have to turn inward and reflect on who they are as a person, “Inside” has the narrator coming to terms with their own negative outlook on the world and desire for human connection, and rather than simply having the realization that they have to reflect on themself as a person, the narrator is finally choosing to take that first step and begin making real change to try and become a better person.

As the song draws to a close, it ends with the same 7pm sounds that made up the entirety of the track “Seven”, bringing the album full circle and completing the overarching narrative regarding the pandemic: self-improvement is a cyclical, never-ending process, and no matter what hardships one might face along the way — regardless of whether or not they’re related to a pandemic — they will always come out stronger on the other side.
Eureka and Inside both do an excellent job of juxtaposing lighthearted music and darker themes — or vice-versa in the case of the latter.

Both albums serve as interesting case studies on two different people who are clearly fucked up in more ways than one, but while the character in Eureka copes with their trauma by taking it out on everyone else, the character in Inside copes with it by looking inside themself and making a sincere effort to become a better person. Not that I think one album’s themes are better than the other, of course — I enjoy the both calmer, more heartfelt energy of Inside and the bright, high-octane energy of Eureka, both of which heighten the individual journeys I go on whenever I listen to each album.

Trina Kolas

UC Riverside '25

Howdy! I'm a creative writing major and English minor at UCR, and I plan to become a published author and a screenwriter/showrunner in the future! I love writing original stories and fanfiction, and I listen to a lot of Mother Mother, Hypnosis Microphone, and Broadway musicals. My goal is to save up for a proper gaming computer so my laptop doesn't spontaneously combust whenever I try to play Portal or Legends of Runeterra on it.