Thursday 31 May 2018

Chvrches - Love Is Dead

Chvrches - Love Is Dead

This might just be the most Chvrches album yet. The songs are smartly constructed, the lyrics more politically charged, and the production glossier than ever under the helm of Greg Kurstin.

The Glaswegian trio's third album, 'Love Is Dead' sees the band open to collaboration - Kurstin, The National's Matt Berninger and David Stewart from The Eurythmics. Sonically it's more of a spit and polish of what's come before, but clear pop structures and hooks bring greater approachability to their sound.

Take Get Out, the first single from the album. It's pre-chorus leads into the hooky repetition of "get out get out" in the chorus, later extended with the expansive refrain "So do you want to turn it around?". Forever and Never Say Die follow a similar structure: a throbbing pre-chorus and a simple repetitive hook, the former erupting into a synth solo in the middle eight. Heaven/Hell features melodies that gradually rise through the octaves towards a soaring "Is this heaven, or is this hell?". The extra trill in the final chorus is perhaps the album's most pop moment.

Far from dumbing down, though, it's a streamlining rather than an oversimplification. There's an urgency to the short, direct phrases, matched by the whirring of synths and driving dance beats. The repeated questions in Never Say Die build a confused tension, the chorus of "Didn't you say that?" adding a yearning desperation; Miracle lurches into a stomping blur of heavy beats and processed vocals, a sudden release. On Deliverance the band have never sounded so deliciously 80s.

It reaches a political peak with Graves, Mayberry questioning "Do you really expect us to care what you're waiting for?" after noting "They're leaving bodies in stairwells and washing up on the shore" and accusing politicians of being "high in your castle". And that's just the first verse in a rush of a pop song that's an urgent call to arms.

There's still a little something missing, though. Perhaps it's the album's relentless wave of high-tempo synths that doesn't pause for breath. Perhaps it's the lack of raw and biting lyrics we've come to expect from Mayberry.

Or perhaps it's just that 'Love Is Dead' feels too familiar. Collaboration has brought evolution rather than reinvention, but Chvrches are a force of pop with shuddering power - no matter how polished their sound.


Gizzle's Choice:
* Forever
* Graves
* Heaven/Hell

Listen: 'Love Is Dead' is out now.