By JackScott-pop trio Chvrches still know their way around a melancholy synthpop tune beter than most, but their quest for a definitive album eludes them. Love is Dead has many moments where the band exhibit inspiration, pop nous and some worthy hooks. Their mastery of goth-pop tropes shows why it is them and not Austra flirting with the mainstream.
A positive development on album three is the expansion of percussion in the mix. Beats on prior projects have often resorted to drum machine stomp, which has served them well. The programmed beats this time round have far greater variety, clattering, swaying, sounding slightly off the beat, as opposed to the somewhat relentlessly precise and direct sound of, say, ‘Never Ending Circles’ from Every Open Eye.
‘Get Out’ is an early highlight, with huge chorus (feat random Death Cab reference) and tight electropop structure, though it can’t quite match the similarly named ‘Get Away’, a one-off from 2014.
Back to back with ‘Deliverance’ makes for the strongest section of the LP, the latter aping the cadence of Rihanna’s ‘Umbrella’ along with a wonderfully universal central lyric: “It’s a deliverance / If you can never, never change.” Lauren Mayberry has a way with angelic choruses that contain a seam of devastation and nowhere are they stronger than here.
The problem then is not her writing, it is the way it is put across. The structures on Love is Dead feel identikit, lacking the idiosyncrasies of tracks such as ‘Lungs’ or ‘Lies’. A further problem is that both prior albums were buoyed by undeniable, massive lead singles.
These may have not been chart monsters, but ‘The Mother We Share’ and ‘Leave A Trace’ were undeniable pop bangers, the kind you could put on at a party without raising an eyebrow or slip into the Radio 1 A-List without questions asked. This problem is compounded by the group’s bald-faced attempt to obtain this, despite their prostrations to the contrary. This is a radio-ready album, but one without a prunable single.
This is compounded by some tunes plainly failing to match up to Chvrches admittedly high standards set on prior projects. ‘Never Say Die’ feels like a Eurovision cast-off, with predictable sugary pre-chorus fit for a Tomorrowland set. ‘God’s Plan’, falling well short of Drake’s smash-hit namesake, could have been left off.
Love is Dead is an enjoyable album with some richly layered, sharply written synthpop tunes and the gorgeous voice of Lauren Mayberry to hammer them home. However lacking memorable instrumentals and feeling predictable in places, this is no slam-dunk.