Since Chvrches’ debut single “Recover” first began wafting across the internet more than five years ago, the Scottish trio has been refining their sublime synthpop, working within a relatively limited formula — towering banks of celestial keyboards combined with Lauren Mayberry’s sweet yet often stinging vocals — and continually finding new ways to perfect it. With their third full-length, “Love Is Dead,” the group has honed that formula to a new peak and fleshed it out considerably, thanks in part to the input of several collaborators.
Eurythmics cofounder Dave Stewart acted as a “de facto mentor” and hitmaker Greg Kurstin (Grammy Producer of the Year for the past two years via his work with Adele and Sia) collaborated on eight of this album’s 12 songs and essentially became a fourth member of the band. Their influence is clear in the tighter focus of the songwriting and the simple-sounding-but-actually-quite-complex arrangements, not to mention the emphatic-ness of the hooks: Songs like “Get Out,” “Forever,” “Miracle” and “My Enemy” (the latter a duet with National singer Matt Berninger) work hard to embed themselves in the listeners’ psyche and usually succeed.
Having said all that, the group’s lyrics have always been a weak point and that’s still the case: Some of the album’s strongest and most oft-repeated hooks have distractingly banal lyrics like “Never say die,” “Get out of here,” “Is this heaven or is this hell?,” and “You are a kaleidoscope.” (To paraphrase “The Great Gatsby,” have you ever met anyone even faintly like a kaleidoscope?) This is especially perplexing considering Mayhew’s razor-sharp comments in interviews and on social media, particularly about feminism and even more pertinently about the sexism she faces in the music industry. While an artist is under no obligation to do anything with their art that they choose not to, at times it does feel like a missed opportunity to use the group’s indelible songcraft to make larger points that she’s frequently made elsewhere.
But maybe that falls outside the group’s manifesto, which is to make great pop music — and with “Love Is Dead,” Chvrches have made their most fully-realized effort to date (musically, anyway).
“Love Is Dead”