The release of CHVRCHES’ third album, Love is Dead coincided with my holiday to their homeland, Scotland. Fortunately, my visit was a lot happier than this release. This album sees lead singer Lauren Mayberry grapple with the emotional baggage of a dying relationship. Mayberry draws the listener in with her lyrics, painting a picture of a relationship where the love has simply fizzled out. Time is an important theme throughout the album, on ‘Graffiti’ Mayberry says that ‘time to kill/was an illusion/time stood still/and now we never will’ showing the couple were naïve in their love.
Mayberry’s retrospective viewpoint gives the impression that she has matured but when we are introduced to the male characters in ‘My Enemy’ and ‘God’s Plan’ we are given a very different image of the relationship. The opening of ‘My Enemy’ is particularly telling where The National’s Matt Berninger opens with ‘I got no more time to hear what you think about me’. At this stage of the album, both characters are blaming one another for the breakdown of the relationship.
However, by ‘God’s Plan’ (not a Drake cover) the male character, voiced by Martin Doherty, exercises his control ‘you belong to me…you confide in me’. The use of both Berninger and Doherty’s voices seems to imply that Mayberry may not be referring to just one abusive relationship. This shift in power dynamic reveals a lot more about the relationship, Lauren Mayberry’s lyrics now sound more like the words of a victim. Mayberry finally begins to break away in ‘Really Gone’ and the lyrics shift more towards a healing process.
Nevertheless, we’re not let off so easily and the emotional scars are present at the close of the album ‘you tell me that it’ll be alright/But I don’t know if you’re right’. The lyrical nuance of the album definitely sets it apart from so many contemporaries who discuss the same topic.
However, the instrumentals seem determined to shove this album into mediocrity and I’m afraid it’s succeeded. For an album which rides the full range of emotions, each song feels like cookie cutter electropop, with the similar melodies and structures. The upbeat tone is often jarring against the nature of the lyrics. Even when they ring the changes on tracks such as ‘Miracles’ they just sound like a cheap rip-off of Imagine Dragons (if you can imagine such a thing). Stand out tracks like ‘My Enemy’ and ‘God’s Plan’ demonstrate CHVRCHES’ talent when they’re all working together but these moments aren’t regular enough. Love is Dead is an interesting journey but it simply lacks the musical backbone to stand up to multiple listens.