May 23, 2018 Chvrches – Love Is Dead (Album Review)
After the sweeping success of their 2015 sophomore effort, Every Open Eye, Scottish Synthpop trio Chvrches return with Love Is Dead on Friday, May 25, 2018 through Glassnote. Could this be the next step in the evolution of Chvrches?
Their third album in five years, for the first time in their career, Chvrches – Vocalist Lauren Mayberry along with Instrumentalists Iain Cook and Martin Doherty – have chosen outside help; not simply in the form of a guest vocal appearance on “My Enemy,” but also with Greg Kurstin and Steve “Mac” McCutcheon (on “Miracle”) stepping in to handle formal production duties.
Up until this point, their 2013 debut, The Bones of What You Believe, and the aforementioned Every Open Eye was produced in-house. So what is the difference? Arguably, outside input has tightened the sound that still fits within the mold of Chvrches.
A baker’s dozen of new tracks tackling the capricious youth and hopeful sadness that have come to define their sound, Love Is Dead opens in grand fashion with “Graffiti.” A song which captures the dichotomy of high school graduation, or perhaps the Scottish equivalent, lyrics such as, “I’ve been waiting for my whole life to grow old/ and now we never will, never will,” showcase the longing for independence from parents and administrators. Yet on the other hand, attempts to forever capture the bliss and innocence of youth. Later on, “Never Say Die” comes in around the halfway point of the album and expresses the same themes, albeit more directly and confidently.
Moving on, “Get Out” features an opening synth riff which was the first piece of music written with Kurstin. The progression continues throughout the track as Mayberry wanders through a staccato chorus. Then, “Deliverance” is a daring loquacious song focused on the ups and downs of religion within modern life, and the inevitable hypocrisy that comes with the territory. This is while “Forever” takes advantage of a rambunctious beat to remind the listener how long and how deep the speaker will hold a grudge, before eventually lamenting and regretting the decision.
On “My Enemy,” Mayberry takes a step back and sings chorus to the deep baritone verses of guest Matt Berninger, whose normal gig is fronting American band The National. Mixing perfectly the effervescence of Mayberry with the deep brooding of Berninger, it is possibly one of the strongest entries on the album. That said, the decision to put Berninger first, rather than singing a proper duet, is a wise one.
As usual, a tense upbeat tempo of “Graves” belies the fact that the lyrics point out the immutability of death, and the lack of mystery that survives when one out of six billion passes from this earth. The somber “Heaven/Hell” continues the theme of life being a fickle, temporary place with lyrics such as “we can raise our glasses/ dancing on the ashes/ as it burns” and “if none of this is real/ then show me what you feel/ ’cause I can’t tell.”
Changing it up some, “God’s Plan” offers Doherty on vocals, and his harrowing turn behind the microphone gives an idea of how bleak a tone Chvrches is really capable of getting when they turn every knob and instrument to the darkest setting possible. The remaining tracks on the album keep with this darker theme, offering a stark contrast to the seemingly positive vibes of the first handful of tracks. For example, the instrumental “II” offers one of the few instances of sad composition, versus the usual poppy music with thick, serious vocals laid over the top. A track earlier, “Really Gone” offers a slower ballad that fits within the ’80s shtick the band has developed over the years. Finally, “Wonderland” offers the global concern of, “we live in a wonderland/ like blood isn’t on our hands,” plus adding a chorus that reminds, “can’t live forever/ with my head and my heart in the clouds.”
Overall, Love Is Dead is another strong testament to how well Chvrches can lull the listener into a warm embrace with their poppy electronic backing, before slicing open a wound or three with caustic, aggressive lyrical content. The brooding vocal appearances from Doherty and guest Matt Berninger offer bleak respites from the usual poppiness of Mayberry, making their third album even stronger. That is why CrypticRock gives Love Is Dead 4 out of 5 stars.
May 26 — Swansea, UK — Radio1 Biggest Weekend
May 31 — Barcelona, Spain — Primavera
June 3 — New York, NY — The Governors Ball
June 8 — Hilvarenbeek, Netherlands — Best Kept Secret
June 10 — Manchester, UK — Parklife
June 17 — Camden, NJ — Bb&T Pavilion
June 22 — Nehausen Ob Eck, Germany — Southside Festival
June 22 — Scheessel, Germany — Hurricane Festival
June 29 — Panensky Tynec, Czech Republic — Aerodrome
June 30 — St Gallen, Switzerland — Openair St Gallen
July 06 — Werchter, Belgium — Rock Werchter
July 08 — Glasgow, UK — TRNSMT Festival
July 11 — Linz, Austria — Ahoi The Full Hit of Summer
July 13 — Alges, Portugal — NOS Alive
July 15 — London, UK — Citadel Festival
July 27 — Yuzawa, Japan — Fuji Rock
August 02 — Chicago, IL — Lollapalooza
August 03 — St Charles, IA — Hinterland Music Festival
August 06 — Denver, CO — Ogden Theatre
August 09 — Ogden, UT — Ogden Twilight
August 31 — Stradbally, Ireland — Electric Picnic
September 20 — San Diego, CA — Open Air Theatre
September 26 — Portland, OR — Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
September 27 — Vancouver, BC — Commodore Ballroom
September 29 — Seattle, WA — Paramount Theatre
October 03 — St. Paul, MN — Palace Theatre
October 04 — Milwaukee, WI — Riverside Theater
October 08 — Birmingham, AL — Iron City Birmingham
October 09 — Asheville, NC — Thomas Wolfe Auditorium
October 10 — — Atlanta, GA — The Tabernacle
October 11 — New Orleans, LA — The Joy Theater
October 15 — Nashville, TN — Ryman Auditorium
October 16 — Charlotte, NC — The Fillmore
October 18 — Washington, DC — The Anthem
October 20 — Boston, MA — Orpheum Theatre
Purchase Love Is Dead:
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