You only need to get a small way into the opening song of Chvrches‘ new album to work out its issues. “Did you achieve all you wanted to do?” sings Lauren Mayberry on Graffiti, before adding: “Something was different, nothing was new”.
Love Is Dead, then, and the fire of Chvrches seems to be too. It’s a huge disappointment to see a beloved band trounce the second album expectation only to flounder on the third, delivering a series of songs that seem predictable, slight, and more in touch with MOR pop-rock rather than the spike of their past.
That partly has to do with the over-produced sheen of Greg Kurstin, but also a lot to do with the painful simplicity of the band’s words. They’re resigned to refrains of a cliched Never Say Die, or remarking “you are a kaleidoscope” on the flimsy Get Out. It all serves to highlight that Chvrches aren’t the same band, with Mayberry herself sounding rather disinterested among the artifice of synth. Miracle feels like the moment they completely lose control of everything that made them special, going for commercial sync and following it up with an almost EDM-like wasteland in Heaven/Hell.
Emotions don’t register, words aren’t strong enough, and the sounds jar one too many times. But there is some joy here. Deliverance has an air-punch chorus that deserves to be heard, and God’s Plan gives Martin Doherty his usual moment (even though it sounds contrary to everything gone before). Of course, it’s just not enough to save this lumbering beast of a record – referring back to that line we mentioned from Graffiti at the beginning, it seems that Chvrches may well have achieved all they wanted to, because they’re certainly serving nothing new. The love is dead, and we’re quite happy for it not to be resuscitated.