sat 21/09/2019

CD: Chvrches - Love Is Dead | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Chvrches - Love Is Dead

CD: Chvrches - Love Is Dead

Scotland’s electropop trio aim for full mainstream integration

Chvrches' 'Love Is Dead': a somewhat successful stab at the Top 10

When bands move to the US, some find themselves drawn into the commercial machine; when Scottish band Chvrches crossed the Atlantic, they were targeting direct assimilation from the start. Recorded with mega-producer Greg Kurstin, the band are aiming to be more direct than ever; perhaps a wise move considering they’ve always leaned heavily on the pop side of electro.

This move is successful, somewhat. The production is appropriately crisp and expansive, and the songs nearly all follow the same structure (sleek verse, build up pre-chorus, hook-heavy chorus). Lauren Mayberry’s voice was built for this sound, effortlessly soaring above muscular synths, her youthful timbres occasionally warped into unexpected growls.

Opening tracks “Graffiti” and “Get Out” set out the stall with irresistible vocal hook repetitions, perfectly designed for Radio 1 summers. The reference points are obvious, with the likes of Taylor Swift and Lorde set firmly in their sights. The only issue with aiming so squarely at the pop titans is competing with their army of songwriters. Despite co-writing much of the album with Kurstin (whose credits include Sia, Adele, Foo Fighters and Beck), not every track can hit the required high standards.

This becomes most apparent when highlight single “Never Say Die”, a massive euphoric chorus smothered in distorted electro bass, is followed by hollow pop anthem “Miracle” (ironically the only track written with pop writer-for-hire Steve McCutcheon). Half of the attempts are genuine pop hits; the rest will sit in your head as a jumble of partially remembered hooks.

The album finds originality when the band stops reaching for pop perfection, and head to weirder waters. “Really Gone” swaps defined structures for a stripped yearning ballad, “ii” is a total diversion into Bowie’s 1984 soundtrack, and “My Enemy” brings The National’s Matt Berringer for a standout duet that brings some humanity to the synthetic production. Perhaps the band would have been better served including more songs in this vein, only leaving in the absolute best chart-style hits.

Perhaps the intentions of the album are just too conscious. There are plenty of stand-out moments, and the production is constantly innovative despite its commercial clarity. Just when tracks like “Forever” or “Graves” come on, the whole album feels less sincere.

The album finds originality when the band stops reaching for pop perfection


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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