Last week, CHVRCHES singer Lauren Mayberry posted a lengthy reponse to an early Stereogum review of their new album, Love Is Dead. In the review, writer Chris DeVille calls the record a "stumble", saying the more political songs on the record "function well enough as fight songs for #TheResistance".
Mayberry slammed the review as "bullshit", saying: "Don't minimise the 'resistance' as a comical joke… at least I give a f****** s***."
What Mayberry failed to recognise in her response is that CHVRCHES' music doesn't exist in a vacuum. As a commercially successful band who, like any artist, are hoping to sell records, they're essentially turning politicism into an artistic commodity – particularly on Love is Dead, on which they reach for the most top-40 friendly music of their career so far, and have teed up with a Grammy-winning producer for the first time in Greg Kurstin (Adele, Sia). That alone invites criticisms such as Stereogum's, which, in every sense, was a soundly-argued review.
What DeVille nails is that CHVRCHES needed to work out how to establish longevity after they met the zeitgeist head-on with their debut, The Bones of What You Believe. Love Is Dead fails them in that regard. The record starts strong; Graffiti flaunts the band's ability to write fantastic hooks, while early singles Get Out and My Enemy (featuring The National's Matt Berninger) balance pop indulgence with the measured allure of mystery that made their first two albums so enticing.
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After that, the record largely bottoms out with lazy production and poor songwriting. A number of songs sound confusingly similar; the melody of Forever's pre-chorus matches the chorus of My Enemy, the song it immediately follows. Identical layered synths and hand claps turn up on three songs; first on Get Out, then, to lacklustre effect, on Never Say Die and Miracle (which features a cringe-worthy vocal effect last heard in 2007 pop-punk music).
It's not all bad, though. Graves, which takes on political apathy in the face of suffering, is an intelligently catchy track, as is the mid-tempo burner Deliverance. There's enough fun to be had here to make the album an enjoyable listen, but it's a considerable step down from the layered genius of their early work. As the title – and terrible artwork – alludes to, CHVRCHES are trying to tackle our world's fading empathy – but they sound rather empty in the process.
Artist, Album name
Album: Love Is Dead
Label: Liberator Music
Verdict: CHVRCHES' most political record becomes their least interesting