Article by Andrés Alvarado
There’s a certain uneasiness that comes from letting go and allowing third party influences to dabble in your mastery. Ask all artistic geniuses, sharing and bringing a vision to life, as a team, can be rather uncomfortable. That brings us to CHVRCHES and their third LP, Love Is Dead. Unlike in the past with 2013’s debut, The Bones of What You Believe, and 2015 follow-up, Every Open Eye, which were wholly produced by the Scottish trio, CHVRCHES subsided a smidgen and brought in outside help. Serving on the production side of Love Is Dead are Steve Mac and Greg Kurstin, while The Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart partook in the process in a mentoring role. The final result is an increased clean-cut approach compared to the gang’s olden servings. The tunes shine a little brighter, the sound-waves a tad more entrancing, the melody a touch more dance-inviting.
To illustrate the message behind CHVRCHES’ Love Is Dead is akin to describing yin and yang as manifested components of the same force. No longer intertwined or complimentary, but broad strokes within a complex mind. Lauren Mayberry‘s lyricism comes across as gloomy, aggressive, and, at times, resentful and resigned, yet she never loses that tonal tenderness or benevolent optimism by which her songwriting prowess has operated. Love Is Dead does lend itself more audibly accessible than its predecessors, conceivably a Top 40 selling-out of sorts, but Mayberry’s modus operandi has never been more forthright or unafraid; that’s where the lifeblood behind Love Is Dead rests.
Lead single “Get Out” is a delicious slice of yesteryear throwback; which is a weird term to describe the work of a band that’s barely 5 years into their run, but hey! Why not? Plus, anyone that can smoothly incorporate “kaleidoscope” onto a song leaves no room for naysayers. Matt Berninger of The National cameos on the drearily gorgeous synths behind “My Enemy.” The second release off of Love Is Dead is downright what you’d expect when these two entities blend and collaborate. It’s dark, soothing, piercing, and poetically sublime.
Opener “Graffiti” is a captivating mid-paced piano-pop ode to love lost. Croons Mayberry “We wrote our names along the bathroom walls // Graffitiing our hearts across the stalls // I’ve been waiting for my whole life to grow old // And now we never will, never will,” while eluding the cheesy sensitivity that associates with these types of anthems. Latest “Miracle” is a soaring power-ballad testimonial of hope for mankind, and showcases Mayberry’s delivery at its most vulnerable, most honest, and most captivating.
Rounding out the record’s strongest core are the nightclub undertones behind of “Heaven/Hell,” the organ-driven and moody “Really Gone,” and the glamorous keys that spearhead both “Graves” and closer “Wonderland.”
Nonetheless, Love Is Dead does carry certain flaws. Namely, the repetitive echo-etched formula behind, the otherwise solid offerings, “Never Say Die,” “Forever,” and “Deliverance.” You can only sling forever-ever-ever or never-ever-ever out so many times before an inkling of déjà vu overtakes the listener. Additionally, the tacky Euro-rave earworm behind “God’s Plan” utterly wastes and drowns out the depth richness behind Martin Doherty‘s baritone bravado.
Overall, Love Is Dead should and should not be considered a worthy heir to its forebears. As a whole, musically, there is an inclination towards preppier and brighter tunage. Lyrically, the threesome is at its highest peak, so far. This Glaswegian triumvirate have spiced it up a tad, or watered it down a hint, depending on who you ask. What we can all agree on is that CHVRCHES has our undivided attention. Not bad … for a band that’s barely 5 years into their run. Cheers!
Score: 7/10 — Key Tracks: “Get Out,” “Miracle,” “My Enemy,” “Graffiti,” and “Graves.”