Chvrches, “Love Is Dead”

Chvrches
Love Is Dead
GLASSNOTE
5/10

Chvrches have a very particular set of skills. They have perfected a glimmering, fluorescent, synth-driven flavor of pop music—the sort that runs on all the lively energy of EDM but props itself up with considerable emotional heft. It’s simple but lived-in, enormous but intimate all at once, and it’s executed with both personal warmth and slick precision.

Such explicitly-carved niches, though, have inherent ceilings. With Love Is Dead, two things are exceedingly clear: the Glasgow trio will probably always be capable of churning out bangers, but their formula also appears to be creeping into diminishing returns territory. The songs that work suggest that this formula is as effective as ever—and yet the record is saddled with a familiarity that’s as limiting as it is endearing.

Thankfully, a certain amount of Love Is Dead is as exhilarating as you’d hope. “Graffiti” extends their tradition of soaring, memorable openers. It’s big and bold and stadium-ready, but bubbly and emotionally charged, too. “Get Out” brims with the starry-eyed bliss and melodic immediacy of their very best work. “Forever” is buoyant and infectious, supported by a twinkling but propulsive instrumental, and it kicks off a run of songs just about as good as any sequence in their discography. “Miracle” comes with an unshakable juggernaut of a hook—one that could easily command a festival crowd (preferably one with a considerable supply of glow sticks).

But key stretches of the album falter. “Deliverance,” with its “Umbrella”-channeling hook, is too heavy-handed to land any real blows against its target (organized religion). “God’s Plan” is neither the smoldering epic the band wants it to be nor the Drake cover that I want it to be. “My Enemy,” featuring Matt Berninger of The National, is a minor disappointment, unable to leverage either Berninger’s strengths or the band’s own.

With Love Is Dead, Chvrches further chisel away at any remaining stray edges of their kaleidoscopic pop; all that remains is a reliable, airtight formula. The assembly line craftsmanship is unlikely to alienate their most ardent admirers. And yet it isn’t difficult to imagine an album just as true to Chvrches’ foundational sound while also trying new things and hitting twice as hard. 

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