Not much is alive on Love is Dead.
Growing pains are always a killer. Glasgow-based Chvrches’ third album, Love is Dead, shows a band in transition. An album that isn’t particularly great but not the worst release of 2018. It’s hard to label an album that is perfectly acceptable to be played in the background by a band for people who don’t know their influences.
One certain thing beyond the album’s spottiness (at best) is that “Love” is tracked horribly. “Graffiti” starts out fine enough with dream pop vocals that could’ve been vintage Cocteau Twins. Then the band comes crashing back to Earth with “Get Out.” The track isn’t a finished product by any means let alone a single. Work like that shouldn’t be rewarded.
“Deliverance” is a solid track but it was better when the song was an M83 demo. “My Enemy” suffers the same problem. The National’s Matt Berninger sings as if he’s been with Chvrches since their inception. Is it too much to ask for an album from that band?
This is a two-fold problem: first, I’d rather just listen to The National and second, singer Lauren Mayberry needs to take more risks. Sometimes the Scottish brogue comes out which echoes Dolores O’Riordan. Mayberry has a soprano like Paramore’s Hayley Williams, minus the four-octave range. The point is Mayberry is in the ballpark.
Take “Forever,” for example. Ironically, this song sounds like it could’ve been on Paramore’s 2013 self-tilted album. Mayberry provides modulation, lilt, and uplift which makes her choruses soar. The synth beats follow suit making this the standout track.
“Never Say Die,” “God’s Plan,” “Really Gone,” and “II” should’ve been left off the album. That’s all that needs to be said.
The whole middle of Love is Dead is what Chvrches should be. “Miracle” has modulation. “Graves” is a modern pop song. “Heaven/Hell” is another example that soaring choruses paired with modulated synth beats is the band’s strong suit.
The album’s biggest sin is leaving “Wonderland” as the album closer when it clearly should’ve been the opener. Packed with throbbing bass and steely synths, we finally hear a fully realized Mayberry. It still could’ve been a Paramore track which, again, speaks to a larger band issue but with such an uneven album why not lead with your aces?
Chvrches is going to be a great band. Just not yet. When the band tries new directions, there are more hits than misses but there is nothing about their old work that is as inspiring as what’s to come.
Keep growing, that what young bands are supposed to do.