Scotland’s Chvrches has dropped their third studio album, Love is Dead, and in many ways, it’s a first for them. For one thing, the album is co-produced by Greg Kurstin, making it the first time the Scottish musical trio has collaborated with outside producers. For another, this seems to be their biggest-sounding album to date, with a sense of bombast to compliment the directness and energy of their first two releases. And then, there’s the politics – a growing and welcome maturity in their worldview that takes the lyrics past the personal and into the wider world, by comparison with their two previous records, The Bones of What You Believe and Every Open Eye.
In Love is Dead, the band explores the question of whether love is worth saving in these grim times, building a righteous, snarling, even cynical tower on the foundation of their past in flawless synths; in their third outing, Chvrches seems to have strived for a different voice seasoned with a harder edge. This is an album which doesn’t have time to mess around, and it’s a huge success.
The lyrics poetically bring out unmissable references to the things that have been rocking the world the wrong way. Take this beautifully strung line from “Graves,” one of the more-loved numbers from Love is Dead: “Leaving bodies in stairwells and washing up on the shore” – a painful collision of a global refugee crisis and the victimization of the countless dead of London’s Grenfell Tower disaster – which collapses, later in the song, to a fierce insistence that “Oh baby, you can look away while they’re dancing on our graves, but I will stop at nothing.”
Songs still operate, on one level, as angular ballads of love and heartbreak (take “Get Out” and “Forever”, in which lyrics ask simply, devastatingly, “What else should I say? What else could I do? Maybe I am just too much for you”), but when you listen to these words in the context of the album, there’s a whole uncompromising subtext waiting to drag you out into the light. This is Scotland via England to the world, and its message is global. And that’s where the record’s strength lies; you can place it in any context, right from something as personal as your everyday heartbreak to something as communal as a public calamity, and it still makes sense.
“Really Gone” is one of the most moving tracks of the album, and when you’re complaining that a song isn’t used as a barnstorming, heartbroken ending to an album – because, for all its poignancy, it’s replaced at the climax by something better – you know you’re dealing with an album to love. Of course, Love is Dead, as an uncompromising statement, might not be to everyone’s taste; and it does have its flaws. But as a great example of the kind of album that bands make when they’re had success and now they want art, it’s brilliant. Even with its minor slipups, it’s evident that their work comes from an honest place. If this is anything to go by, Chvrches’ next contribution to the synth-pop world is going to be something even better.
— CHVRCHΞS (@CHVRCHES) May 25, 2018