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Chvrches - Love is Dead (Album Review)

Tuesday, 12 June 2018 Written by Jennifer Geddes

Dark clouds loom over Chvrches on their third release, ‘Love is Dead’. Here the Scottish trio offer a response to the modern political landscape through the medium of big ‘80s-influenced pop songs. Working with producer Greg Kurstin on much of the record, they fully embrace their mainstream sensibilities.

Graffiti features Chvrches’ go-to modulating synth melodies, but the song structure is more conventionally pop, with a huge, well-defined chorus. “We wrote our names along the bathroom walls, graffitiing our hearts across the stalls,”  Lauren Mayberry sings. “I've been waiting for my whole life to grow old, and now we never will, never will.” It’s feels like the members of The Breakfast Club suddenly waking up in post-apocalyptic world.

When combined with the dark imagery in Mayberry’s lyrics, the band’s compositional glitter can be powerful.

On Graves, she sings: “They're leaving bodies in stairwells. Washing up on the shore. Do you really expect us to care what you're waiting for? When you're high in your castle, keeping an eye on the door.”

At other times the drive towards straight up pop and the genre’s penchant for simplicity is taken too far. On Forever the chorus is reduced to the repetition of one word, quite literally forever.

In the past the band’s melodies glided along on a gossamer wave but now they have greater agency. The high tempo Get Out feels dense and compact on the verse, which then makes the chorus soar.

“Can we get out, get out GET, get, get out GET, get, get out of here?” Mayberry sings. Her delivery makes it sound like a demand, but the question adds a sense of desperation. The tidal wave/comet/iceberg is coming but nobody's paying attention.

Everything on ‘Love is Dead’, feels dialled up to 11, but its maximalism is also a case of bad timing, as the charts seem to be going through a minimalist moment. While the past few years have seen the excesses of the ‘80s make a comeback, it feels like that particular phase has passed. Just look at the difference between Taylor Swift’s ‘1989’ and ‘Reputation’. Unfortunately, Chvrches’ big pop moment already feels a little dated.

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