A delightful blend of giant dance anthems, heart-bursting emotion and fight
My mother made me a lifelong Eurythmics fan. A constant in our house alongside the Celtic rock anthems of U2 and Runrig, they offered a vision of a Scottish voice beyond bluster, of chill thrills and electric rush, and, in Annie Lennox, a frontwoman who explored all aspects of herself: tough, soft, exuberant, cold, androgynous, ultra-feminine.
Chvrches and their frontwoman Lauren Mayberry offer a similar pleasure on their second album, a record like a deep gulp of cold air on a clear, bright morning after. Opener ‘Never Ending Circles’ is full of juddering tingles and glistening epiphanies full, like much of the album, of the heady rush of brittle, defiant self-belief hard-won from a bitter dispute: “Here’s to taking what you came for/And here’s to running off the pain”. Lead single ‘Leave A Trace’, too, sublimates the heat of a fatal fight – each partner holding desperately to their truth – into a cleansing release, commanding your limbs to clear the nearest usable space of bystanders and dance it clean.
The album’s most heart-bursting moment comes in ‘Clearest Blue’, with Lauren’s cry of “Will you meet me more than halfway, yeah?!” riding a synth riff like a rampaging armoured cousin of Depeche Mode’s ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’. ‘Keep You On My Side’, with its handclaps and giddy synth twirls, hints at another Chvrches touchstone, New Order (whose ‘Power, Corruption & Lies’ is also echoed in the album sleeve’s pixellated roses). ‘Make Them Gold’ brings out their anthemic side, made for pumping fists at the ceiling, while ‘Empty Threat’, ‘Down Side Of Me’ and the soft-glowing, sacred hush of closer ‘Afterglow’ display the trio’s equally powerful softer tendencies. ‘High Enough To Carry You Over’ shows off Martin Doherty’s yearning voice and reminds you that Chvrches are very much a band, though it’s hard not to hear Lauren’s lyrics on this album (she described ‘Leave A Trace’ as “a middle finger mic-drop”) in light of the fine job she’s done of late speaking out against music-industry misogyny. That only adds to the thrill, particularly on the glittering, stomping ‘Bury It’, with its refrain of “bury it and rise above”. It’s a rise you’d be best to get on board for.
Release date: 25 Sep, 2015