Scottish electro-pop trio and terrible spellers Chvrches return with their second album this September, almost exactly two years on from their debut ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’. If you liked that record, there’s a better than even chance you’ll love this one – the band have a firm grasp of what makes them special. “Too many bands end up throwing away the thing people liked about them in the first places,” observed Iain Cook to NME recently. Cook, Martin Doherty and singer Lauren Mayberry wrote 30 demos for this record, but have cut it down to a lean and muscular 11. What do they sound like? We’ll tell you now.
Never Ending Circles
A thumping banger for an opener – there ain’t no equivocating about this. Mayberry sounds like she could walk all over anyone, tossing out lines like: “I’ll go my way if I’m going at all.” It’s not a million miles from being a slightlier, indier reworking of Taylor Swift’s ‘Out Of The Woods’, which is obviously a good thing.
Leave A Trace
“It’s our fight song,” Mayberry recently told NME. “An avalanche of sound. Both lyrically and musically it’s one of the most direct things we’ve ever done.” Personally, I think “avalanche” might be a bit strong – this is Chvrches after all, so rather than a barrage of sound what we get is pure and crisp, like being buried in silk. It’s the sort of tune that would sound equally good on the dancefloor or at the climax of an emotional 80s drama.
Keep You On My Side
Driven along on a pounding drum beat, this is the sort of song that will inspire more moshing and pogoing than hip-shaking in Chvrches’ crowds. It’s so punchy you’ll find yourself with your first involuntarily in the air midway through, so maybe avoid listening to this one on the Northern Line during rush hour.
Make Them Gold
Apparently this one reminds Mayberry of “the bit in ‘The Goonies’ where they’re cycling down the hill.” Speaking of hills, there’s arguably a bit of Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’ buried in here. Perhaps she’ll pass The Goonies going the other way. It’s a great big, hands-in-the-air tune with a singalong chorus about making our best parts gold (Although presumably not literally, because anyone who’s seen poor old Shirley Eaton in ‘Goldfinger’ will know that ends badly).
“‘Clearest Blue’ was the 17th song we wrote, and it sort of informed the rest of the production,” Doherty told NME. “To me it came to define how the rest sounds. How is that? Well, it’s big and happy and sad and a banger.” Mayberry added: “It’s sort of cry-dance.” Well, you know what they say – 17th time lucky! Who doesn’t love to throw their arms skyward while warm tears slip down their cheeks? Don’t worry if you start feeling too sad: There’s a bit about three-quarters of the way through when a beat drops in that sounds suspiciously like Reel 2 Real’s ‘I Like To Move It’ so that will cheer you up.
High Enough To Carry You Over
I’ve been doing a lot of dancing in my office chair while listening to this so far, and I’m starting to feel a bit exhausted. Thank God then that here’s a slowie sung by one of the boys. I’m assuming Doherty. There’s a bit where he sings: “Never would have given you up,” which sounds suspiciously like he’s trying to Rick-Roll us all, the cad.
In ‘Empty Threat’ she’s back and they’ve cranked the speedometer back up to ‘surging’. “I was better off / when I was on your side,” she asserts, and Chvrches are very much better off now she’s back in control.
Down Side Of Me
Compared to the heart-racing pace set by the record so far, this feels glacially slow. Mayberry’s voice is joined by a slightly robotic auto-tuned chorus, as if Daft Punk are singing backing vocals through a shower curtain.
Mayberry’s at her most withering here, telling the listener: “There are no silver linings in anything you say,” before moving on to claim that: “I’m chasing the skyline much more than you ever will.” The strutting tune backs up her confidence.
A soaring banger with an insistent chorus, this is a crystallisation of everything that makes Chvrches special. The repeating synth line sounds eerily like the skipping backing music from Chris Morris’ news satire ‘The Day Today’, but as long as you aren’t as haunted by that sound as I am you should be fine.
Cook recently revealed that the album closers was salvaged from the scrap-heap at the last moment. “We were going to bin it,” he told NME, “We spent ages working out what it was going to be. By the end, we’d just left it to the side. Then, one day, we just tempo-shifted it, took out the drums, put in a one-track vocal and a one-track synth line, and there it was. It went from the bottom of the bin to album end-point inside about an hour.” The result is a stately, contemplative closer that tilts at Sigur Ros’ dreaminess and showcases Mayberry’s voice at its very best.
Chvrches’ ‘Every Open Eye’ is released on September 25.