Glaswegian trio’s second album finds them sounding bigger and better than ever
A lot has happened for Chvrches since they first burst onto the electronic scene in 2013 with their debut, ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’. Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook and Martin Doherty were treated to a Brit award nomination and have been touring like crazy, quickly becoming festival favourites – quite a feat for a synthpop trio.
Now they’re back with their second long-player, ‘Every Open Eye’, and the growth since album one is more than evident. Mayberry sounds much more in control of her material and sings with a confidence and defiance that was only hinted at on the first outing – and who can blame her? The briefest of googles will throw up more than a taster of the kind of misogynist attacks she’s faced for daring to be a woman in electronic music, and Mayberry and her bandmates have been standing up against this sort of abuse since the release of their first single.
This isn’t just an irrelevant biographical note: Mayberry wrote many of the lyrics to the songs on ‘Every Open Eye’ while touring over the past couple of years, and directly interacting in a live environment with fans who support her in those circumstances must have contributed to the strength of personality that is conveyed on this album. Her voice is strong. The synths are bold. The drum machines lash like whips. And it proves to all the doubters that the trio can make great, interesting, popular electronic music with a woman at the helm.
It’s not an album of break-up songs, but ‘Every Open Eye’ does deal throughout with the lingering emotions at the end of a relationship. There’s the tongue-in-cheek bitterness visible in the opening track, ‘Never Ending Circles’ (“Here’s to taking what you came for”) and when Mayberry sings “I know I need to feel release” on the first single, ‘Leave A Trace’, it’s about being set free from an involvement that is no longer giving any of the participants joy; the rest of the song celebrates letting go of a relationship that has become too controlling. In ‘Bury It’ she’s already leaving toxic emotions behind.
The instrumentation doesn’t go anywhere unexpected, but you still can’t help dancing to tracks like ‘Make Them Gold’ – sometimes those predictable resolving refrains are just the ticket. Cook and Doherty keep the songs chugging along, the richness and depth of their contributions contrasting with Mayberry’s airy voice. ‘Clearest Blue’ is the best example: the vowels of the chorus – “Please say you’ll meet me, meet me halfway” – stretch across an almost industrial beat, and before long the song has descended into a punching, powerful mass, floating vocals barely audible over the sharp, crisp synth sounds. The band’s skill at shifting between tempos and dynamics, no doubt carefully honed over years of playing live for festival crowds, is clearly on show here.
With the potential to be this generation’s Depeche Mode, Chvrches are fast becoming the face of popular electronic music. Could they be the saviours of the mainstream? They’ve given us more than enough reason to believe so.