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Chvrches - Screen Violence Music Album Reviews

Chvrches - Screen Violence Music Album Reviews
On its fourth album, the Scottish trio steps back from the grandest pop aspirations and embraces a horror-movie concept without losing its signature brightness and sense of joy.

Once the horror starts, you’re there until whatever end is in store for you. Maybe your phone is dead and the roads closed. Maybe you’re trapped somewhere: a haunted house, a derelict mall, a sinister academy. Maybe you’re just trapped inside your own life; perhaps you’re a band existing in a brutal industry, where failure is common and death threats are just another thing in your inbox. It’s surprising more artists don’t make horror-themed albums. It’s even more surprising when they come from groups like Chvrches, better known for their joyful anthems—and when they find joy there regardless.

Ironically, Screen Violence outshines their last few years of deliberately “happy” music, even if it’s inspired by slashers and failures and the screen-mediated deadness of post-pandemic life. (The title, though, predates COVID-19 by almost a decade; the trio considered it as a band name.) Love Is Dead, the group’s intermittently fun third album, enlisted Adele’s producers to blow their sound up to megafestival size. Then they wrote a song even songwriter Lauren Mayberry called “tacky pop crap” for EDM mascot Marshmello. The machine shows little discernment, and the next vocalist down Marshmello’s conveyor belt was disgraced Chris Brown; when the band spoke out against his replatforming, the death threats began again.

Besides a guest spot by the Cure’s Robert Smith, the new album is written, produced, and performed by just the core trio. But it’s not merely a safe return to form. The group could have delivered 10 variations on “Clearest Blue” and made (relative) bank. Instead, they let their influences sprawl widely. The breakbeats throughout “Violent Delights” and gentle strings on “Lullabies” are homages to, respectively, the Prodigy and the Blue Nile. The bridge in “Nightmares,” which submerges guttural spoken word beneath synth murk, was inspired by Kate Bush’s “Waking the Witch.” Album closer “Better If You Don’t” is a low-key rock track on which Mayberry sounds startlingly like Harriet Wheeler.

Better yet, they finally build on the darker parts of 2013’s The Bones of What You Believe as they excavate their own career. The album is full of nightmare imagery, alluding to sleep paralysis, drowning, gutting, and the “final girl”: the plucky, virginal hero in a slasher cast whose saintliness is rewarded with trauma. Granted, this is all Intro to Film Studies stuff; Carol J. Clover coined the term in 1992, and by the 2010s it was already thoroughly listicled, TV Troped, and spoofed. Fortunately, on Screen Violence, the horror concept is mostly an excuse to bring on John Carpenter for a remix and for the group to write about their experience in metaphorical rather than literal terms—in Mayberry’s words, “running for a horizon that you don’t really need, but you have to keep running for it.”

By now Chvrches have endured as many waves of harassment as they’ve released albums, and repeatedly expressed frustration at people reading unintended messages into their music. Perhaps that’s why the two most traditionally poppy songs here are the most pointed: so as to leave no room for misunderstanding. Single “He Said She Said” recounts a man’s gendered demands and mixed messages, e.g. “Look good—but don’t be obsessed.” It’s hardly subtle, and the rhyme scheme contorts certain lyrics past plausibility, but the songwriting works. The “he said”s are loud and double-tracked; almost all the “she said”s are subdued, either dissolved in Auto-Tune or replaced by a muffled lead synth. The one exception arrives with the drop: Mayberry pierces through with “I feel like I’m losing my mind!” and the chorus surges like self-assurance. “Good Girls” is a deceptively simple piece of pop clockwork with lyrics you could probably autocomplete off the phrase “good girls ____,” which makes it all the more rewarding when Mayberry busts the melody and rhythm with “but I don’t!”

These moments of clarity are rare. The album’s opening and closing tracks are sugary comfort-food pop about confusion and loss. “Violent Delights” is a fever dream of over-bright production with the comforting lyrics of a love song (“I’ll never sleep alone again”) and bleak realizations about fame (“If I disappear, they’ll say I killed myself”), both delivered as if in a daze. “Final Girl” is caught between nonchalance and fear and has two choruses: one a pop-rock sugar cube, one an escalating bit of dread in which Mayberry stares down two potential futures, girlboss and body bag.

The two best tracks are also counterparts: “California” and “How Not to Drown.” “No one ever warns you/You’ll die in California,” Mayberry sings on the former, a breakup song to Hollywood and a love song to graceful failure, so sincere that they even get away with the Rae Dunnism of “God bless this mess” on the bridge. “How Not to Drown” tells the same story—both songs dwell on fame bringing death and end with being pulled down—in an unrelentingly bleak key. Mayberry and Robert Smith sing at their most impassioned against a production that pummels and swallows them whole: “We’ll never escape this town; I wasn’t dead when they found me.” Which version of the story is true: the waking up or the nightmare? Some people find the final-girl trope to be empowering. Others, like Mayberry, just ask why she isn’t screaming.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Chvrches - Screen Violence Music Album Reviews Chvrches - Screen Violence Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Thursday, September 09, 2021 Rating: 5

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