ALBUM REVIEW: CHVRCHES – Love is Dead

8/10

Glaswegian synth-pop trio Chvrches (who are Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook and Martin Doherty) release their highly-anticipated third album, “Love Is Dead” today through Glassnote records. Music fans have already heard quite a bit of the new “poppier” sound by way of its four single releases from the record: “Get Out”, “My Enemy”, “Never Say Die” and “Miracle”.

Unlike the first two albums which were recorded in a dingy basement in Glasgow on their own, this time they have worked largely with Grammy Award-winning Producer Greg Kurstin – the man who co-wrote, produced and played most of the instruments on the record-breaking 2015 Adele single “Hello” and who has worked alongside Sia, Beck, Kelly Clarkson, Pink and Foo Fighters amongst others. Interestingly too, they have opened creative doors to synth-pop legend Dave Stewart of The Eurythmics who provided insight and, as Mayberry states “really pushed us to focus on the artistic integrity of the album and everything that surrounds it.”

The band has enjoyed this new process and cites Love Is Dead as “the most pop stuff and also the most aggressive and vulnerable at the same time” and go on to say that its themes are around “the overarching concept of love”. The glistening Graffiti opens up the album with a strident lament from Mayberry about recalling the time, as teenagers that: “We wrote our names along the bathroom walls/Graffiti -ing our hearts across the stalls/ I’ve been waiting for my whole life to grow old/ And now we never will, never will” – the song is vibrant, with towering crescendos of synth in the chorus and it’s deliciously nostalgic. Out of all the tracks on the album, it’s the song that’s most reminiscent of Chvrches’ older material and an album highlight. Single release Miracle is resplendent with Mayberry’s distorted vocal, nostalgic 80s synth tones mixed with menacing chants and booming drums.

Graves is a high-energy synth and drum fuelled number with punchy vocals which belie the dark lyrics of a society that has given up caring: “They’re leaving bodies in stairwells/and washing up on the shore/You can look away, while they’re dancing on our graves.” Whilst the slower-paced My Enemy featuring The National’s Matt Berninger doesn’t quite live up to expectation, the sparse, stripped back simplicity of the poignant ballad Really Gone is another album highlight. Mayberry’s tender, aching vocal singing of a love that has to be walked away accompanied by a sombre synth-wave pulse.

Lyrically, there is a lot of repetition on songs – notably on Never Say Die with the hook line “never- ever-never-ever”, Deliverance “deliver-iver-iver” and Forever “forever-forever-forever-and- ever” which aren’t the most inventive but are saved by Mayberry, who is adept at sounding both powerful and fragile and always emotive. Her voice acts like another instrument, soaring and impassioned backed by Cook and Doherty’s ambitious electronic soundscapes. In the conscious move to broaden their sound though on this third record, the band have lost some of their edginess and grittiness that launched them into the synth stratosphere on the release of their debut The Bones Of What You Believe – who can forget the majesty of opening track The Mother We Share? The boldness and brashness of Lies which brought them to public attention?

Love Is Dead is still a great listen and Chvrches still remain at the forefront of electronic music – it just feels that in the quest for that pop, mainstream feel, the band have abandoned their strangeness, their insular quirkiness which made them unique. Having said that, these songs undoubtedly will rocket in arenas and at festivals due to the fact that they are expansive anthems, infused with danceable electro goodness with Mayberry sounding more confident and commanding than ever before.

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