PVRIS – ‘Use Me’ review: frontwoman Lynn Gunn steps out to the front on confident third album

She's long been the band's creative engine, but here the musician takes the reigns more openly than before, facing her struggles with candour

“Wide awake / Just cut the head off of a snake,” PVRIS linchpin Lynn Gunn sings defiantly over dark, gleaming guitars on the opening line of ‘Give Me A Minute’, the first track on the band’s new album, ‘Use Me’. The singer is referring to the turning point after years of personal turbulence in which she battled depression, damaged her voice and lost – then regained – her self-confidence.

Read more: PVRIS: “Sometimes you’ve got to have the power – and the courage – to walk away”

We now know that, since day one, Gunn has been the sole architect behind the Massachusetts band’s sleek pop-rock, a glistening blend of euphoric choruses, glossy synths and glistening guitars. Until now, she’s not had the confidence to take credit for her work, but that’s all changing with the band’s third album. ‘Use Me’ is the record on which Gunn leaves her anxieties behind and steps forward into the spotlight.

As a result, many of these songs have been crafted around thumping beats that evoke a bright, new energy. PVRIS have always had one eye on the dancefloor, even if sometimes strayed towards the gloomier corners. But on single ‘Stay Gold’, Gunn sings, “You’ve seen my dark side” over a wall of squelchy basslines, while on buzzy anthem ‘Dead Weight’ she states, “So sick of being your giver”. In both instances she lets go of her problems under the kaleidoscopic reflections of a shimmering disco ball.

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Even in the album’s emotional moments, which speak to the end of a messy relationship, there’s a sense of growth and acceptance. The finger-picked ‘Loveless’ finds Gunn working through the pain: “You’re probably fine now / You’re not even hurtin’/ You’re free as a bird / Well, I’ll carry the burden for you”. Pulsing jam ‘Wish You Well’ sees cast away the hurt: “The less we’re entwined / The more we’re healin’.”

The album was recorded last year in LA and Nashville last year, but due to delayed release dates (the first down to Covid-19 and the second because Gunn wanted to “hold space for the conversation and message of the Black Lives Matter movement to continue”) she was able to make final alternations during lockdown.

The album closes with a reworked version of the album’s glassy title track, now featuring a verse from experimental rapper 070 Shake. It’s the first time Gunn has collaborated with another artist – yet another example of her stepping into the unknown and pushing herself out of her comfort zone. ‘Use Me’ is the sound of an artist flexing her muscles, making sense of and peace with her past and, most importantly, embracing a new future.

Details

Release date: August 28

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Record label: Warner Records

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