What is pop? Seriously? Something that used to simply mean popular has now become one of the most ambiguous terms in the industry.
Yet, it’s used everywhere – both seriously and incredulously. There is an implication that records associated with said adjective lacks credibility, compared to that of, say, an indie/alternative album. This is despite the two genres sharing most of the same themes – love, heartbreak, self-doubt…
liberally branded as pop CHVRCHES have somehow avoided the negative connotations associated with the ambiguous genre. Debut album ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’ introduced a blast of ‘80s synth-pop swaddling and Lauren Mayberry’s firebrand vocals that enthralled hearts the world over.
If the incessant press coverage the group has received, is anything to go by, you would assume that CHVRCHES are angrier second time around and you’d be right ‘Every Open Eye’ is their scream into the void.
It is the anger and immediacy of almost every track that is the hot blood of this record. Keep You On My Side is wildly percussive – Mayberry and her fellow band mates Iain Cook and Martin Doherty taking every opportunity to snap back at each other.
Opening track Never Ending Circles sets the tone, throbbing to attention in waves of crashing keys. Mayberry is exasperated and unrestrained in delivery. Leave A Trace‘s bridge and choruses are achingly vulnerable, despite being sandwiched between layers of slickly polished synth.
Lyrically, CHVRCHES veer wildly from left to right. Bonus track Bow Down has Mayberry sounding gleefully callous – “So don’t just lie there/Hoping for the pin to drop”. On the other side of the coin, Make Them Gold is an anthem of self-love; a glorious celebration, “We are made of our longest days/We are falling but not alone …”
Clearest Blue is the obvious highlight – transportation through flashy ‘80s disco lights, matched with a vocal that claws at its glossy veneer.
What have they done differently? Honestly, not much – it is debatable whether there was much to done in the first place. While the instrumentation has grown broader (three keyboards and a singer does not a sophomore album make), experimentation is limited. However, Down Side Of Me‘s intro is very reminiscent of noughties R&B, and the weird melody that embodies it is beautiful.
Confidence is key, and it is obvious that that’s all that was lacking from CHVRCHES debut. On some of ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’ brightest moments, Mayberry remains reserved. Not so here – she is a voice of conviction, and anything but twee – even on sleeper hit Afterglow, soaked in angelic, uplifting instrumentation that brews around her voice.
Strong and pop are not typically associated as adjectives ‘Every Open Eye’ will ensure that they will be from now on.