August 24, 2020 PVRIS – Use Me (Album Review)
PVRIS offered us some lush Hallucinations in the fall of 2019, but now they are ready to drop their highly-anticipated third LP, Use Me. Warner Records delivers the goods on Friday, August 28, 2020.
Electro-Pop rockers PVRIS began their journey in 2012 in Lowell, Massachusetts. Their debut disc, White Noise, arrived two years later and the response was epic. Media praise and the adoration of a growing legion of fans paved the way for the trio’s sophomore effort, All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell, which propelled them further skyward. Recognized as one of the best bands to merge Pop and Rock flawlessly, PVRIS has gone on to share stages with the likes of Muse, Bring Me the Horizon, Fall Out Boy, 30 Seconds To Mars, and many, many more.
Hot off the heels of their third EP, the aforementioned Hallucinations, the beloved threesome—Multi-Instrumentalists Lynn Gunn, Alex Babinski, and Brian MacDonald—is set to offer up their third full-length, Use Me. Produced by JT Daly (K. Flay, The Score), though Gunn and Daniel Armbruster (Joywave) also receive production credits, the 11-track LP picks up where their last work left off, turning away from rockstar-dom to delve deeper into their Electro-Pop personality. With Gunn taking her rightful place at the helm of all things PVRIS, she authors and conducts a collection that sees her proudly embracing her strength—both as an creative soul and as a woman.
For fans, some of the tracks will already be familiar: “Death of Me,” “Hallucinations,” and “Old Wounds” are holdovers. Understandably, much as when you first heard “Death of Me,” it still maintains its sultry groove, while the sun continues to twinkle across Babinski’s guitar strings on the earworm “Hallucinations.” And, of course, they still enmesh themselves in dark atmospherics for “Old Wounds.” Occupying the very center of the collection, the trio of previously-released tracks offers a bridge and a familiar ‘face’ to help ease fans into the band’s Electro-Pop heavy new disc.
Due to this (continued) sonic shift, it is no surprise that they choose to open the album with “Gimme A Minute,” where electronics back Gunn as she weaves a Pop spell that borders on Hip-Hop pacing at times. Picking up throughout its runtime, the song ultimately abandons all pretense to become a fiercely edgy rocker. Taking this ball and running with it, “Dead Weight” gets funky with a dancy groove that undulates around an Alt Rock core.
Changing it up further, Gunn’s gossamer vocals float into “Stay Gold.” Perfect for summer, the song maintains a clap-along beat to anchor what could easily be the latest Pop smash. Then percussion takes a moment to shine amid the relatable contradictions of “Good to Be Alive” (“It feels good to be alive but I hate my life”), where the Hip-Hop cadence of Gunn’s vocals blends fluidly with the bluesy guitar flourishes of Babinski.
As we already know, more often than not the key to PVRIS’s music is that just when you start to think you have them figured out, you don’t. Throughout Use Me, no two tracks ever twin, though there are some that pair together like tacos and salsa (or peanut butter and jelly, if you’re vanilla). “Stay Gold” and “Good to Be Alive,” for example, along with “Dead Weight” and “Death of Me.” The same can be said for the intimate confessions of “Loveless,” where acoustic guitar tingles the flesh with its graceful melancholy, and “January Rain,” mired in MacDonald’s thick bass that undulates across the body.
Meanwhile, the titular “Use Me”—which features Hip-Hop artist 070 Shake—returns to the earlier sultry feels, all while blending what sounds like a Chinese guzheng into the mix to add some subtle Eastern influences into its beautifully lush textures. With PVRIS running on high, they end on the entrancing vibes of “Wish You Well,” a perfect title to mark your farewell. And while both songs are catchy, to say the same of any singular track seems redundant as, in its entirety, Use Me is an exercise in sonic sorcery.
Unlike many of today’s vocalists, Gunn possesses the range and the ability to tackle any genre with grace. Equally talented, Babinski and MacDonald follow her lead with ease as the threesome trudge across the entire sonisphere. An alluring spell that is guaranteed to add to the enjoyment of your summer (pandemic be damned!), Use Me feels at both times suitable for a beach bonfire and a solitary moment by candlelight. If we can call this the band’s Amo, then, sure, there will be naysayers—as there always are—but, please remember, PVRIS has made a name off their ever-shifting sound. So, call their latest whatever you like, but good luck choosing a favorite track! Cryptic Rock gives Use Me 5 of 5 stars.