Love is Dead is the latest album from the synthpop band, CHVRCHES. No, it’s not my personal feelings. Heck, I even have a draft in here called “Modern Romance” (which would’ve been a review of Aziz Ansari’s book, but…). Regardless, the band isn’t even that aggressive in their feelings. Singer Lauren Mayberry has gone on record saying she would’ve rather titled the album “Love is Dead?”. Though Mayberry may question her own feelings about love within the lyrics, it is no question that this is another solid album from one of my favorite bands.
The questions start within the opening track, Graffiti. Considering the album’s main symbol is a graffitied heart, this seems like the track that captures the literal heart of the album.
I gotta say, I’m a paragraph and a half in, and I’m questioning my own actions for writing this. Man, this album is powerful. Back to the song, Graffiti is about a young love that faded out. It’s got a nice finishing chorus line: “I’ve been waiting my whole life to grow old/and now we never will”. The implication is that the speaker will grow old by themselves, without their former youth lover. How deliciously tragic. I really like the verses of the song; I just wish it didn’t go to “dubstep” speed for the chorus. Still a pretty awesome track.
Get Out was the lead single off of the album. While Graffiti was about a relationship that simply fizzled out, the couple in Get Out actively destroy what they have. This really set the tone for a much angrier album than what we ended up getting. Regardless, I enjoy this song a lot. My friends keep trying to rephrase the chorus to “get out, get out, I do not hook uhh-up”. That’s all I have to say. Like I said, I’m constantly questioning myself as I write this.
Deliverance is one of a few songs on the album that keeps the tempo quick in the chorus, so I appreciate it for that. I also really like the way Mayberry shouts out the bridge, even if what she is shouting is a trite “you better give up on giving up”. The song sounds like something from T-Swift’s 1989 with lyrics from songs off the album Wild World by Bastille. It’s a warning to anyone that preaches that they themselves are not saved, which is exactly the kind of statement Bastille would make. Regardless, it’s a competent pop song. This is not a competent album review.
My Enemy was the second single off the album, and the one that turned me off the most. It’s a slow duet with Matt Berninger of The National that’s essentially CHVRCHES’ answer to Give Me a Reason. It’s boring. The most use I got out of it was for a project in which I combed through every song I owned on iTunes looking for lyrics with the word “love” in them. The line “but your jealousy was more blind than your love” fit real well in there. I should publish that on here instead of this, but I started doing music reviews a long time ago, and I can’t stop now. Maybe… I’m my own enemy???
Forever’s lyrics are perhaps the worst on the album. Not a single good turn of phrase. But, my god, the instrumentals are awesome. And the way “ever” echoes again and again in the speakers is so well layered. There’s nothing else to say about it, but then again is there anything to say about music in the first place?
Never Say Die was the third single off the album. It was underwhelming at the time, but I’ve grown to really like the verses and bridge. Lauren’s cadence mesmerizes even with the line “wasn’t it gonna be fun and wasn’t it gonna be true”. The lyrics themselves are about a clearly-failing relationship that the speaker wants out of, but somehow convinces themselves to never say die and stay in it. They are also correct in that all I’ve wanted was to play at playing god. With the internet, anyone can be god of their own little blog.
Miracle is the true center of the album, as it is lucky #7 of an unlucky set of 13 songs, and it’s about as cautiously optimistic as you can get. The speaker’s not asking for a miracle! They just want to be shown love. Sadly, I don’t really love the fourth single off the album, since it honestly does not sound like a CHVRCHES song. It has the chorus of an Imagine Dragons anthem. I do really like the verses and bridge, just like Never Say Die, and while I don’t hate it forever, it just isn’t the miracle of sound the band hoped for. My god, that’s the worst line I’ve written in a while. I just keep digging deeper and deeper
Graves is my pick for best track on the album.
The lyrics are in the right place, if a little naive. “If you don’t have a heart, I can offer you mine” is a very noble line, Mayberry. Instead of watching “them” dance on my grave, I will gladly dance on my own to this song, because it is an absolute banger. Uh, bang–this blog sucks, and I just shot it.
Heaven/Heck is a forgettable but palatable five minute track that, again, has its heart in the right place even if it is phrased poorly. While Mayberry criticized the rest of the world in Graves, she turns her criticism inward for this song. “Am I real if you can see through me?” “Is it alright if I save myself and I clean up my own mess?” “Is it right if I’m a perfect actress?”. To all these questions… I feel like the average listener would say “yes”. But, the truth is, that Mayberry is closer to heaven on earth than most of those listeners that would say yes. I don’t know. This isn’t analysis. This is just trying to find fault with something I like so that I’m not as personally invested, should CHVRCHES turn out to be some mega-evil synthpop group. But it’s far more likely I’m inventing my own heck as I write this.
God’s Plan continues the religious “allegories” and is the token track in which the band member with a hat sings; see also: Under the Tide, High Enough to Carry You Over. Just like both of those other songs, God’s Plan has a twitchy synth-base that never quite stabilizes. It also sounds like a cover of Science/Visions rather than Drake’s God’s Plan. I enjoy the drums when the chorus kicks in. Other than that, it’s just too jumpy, kind of like my update schedule on this website. Look, it’s hard to insult yourself in thirteen straight paragraphs. Lay off.
Really Gone is the softest “real” song on the album. It’s basically a sequel to Afterglow in terms of sound. She’ll “try to find another way” in this track, in Afterglow she promised “I’ll find my own way back”. The song as a whole is almost a fleshed-out reimagining of the line in Night Sky in which Mayberry said “once you leave me, you are really gone”. If this focus on the lyrics couldn’t tip you off, Really Gone has little substance, but sounds pretty. So I forgive it. I’m sure every one (and I mean one) of my readers has been really gone for a while. Music posts suck.
ii is a short instrumental interlude with unintelligible lyrics. When the piano comes in alongside Mayberry’s voice in the second half, it sounds like the piano from I See You by MIKA. That’s all the analysis I got. Or, rather, all the analysis all II got. The jokes write themselves.
The album closes with another bang. Wonderland preserves the melody of ii’s piano but transposes it onto a synth. It sounds much more fun. The song itself is the summation of all the cautious pessimism in contemporary society. As it stands, it seems the album had two major strands for themes: disillusion in modern society, and disillusion in a romantic relationship. A majority of songs focus on the latter theme, so I get why it’s called Love is Dead, but the second half of the album makes you wonder if a more fitting title would’ve been “Politics Are Dead” or “Society Is Dumb” or something like that. That way, songs like Never Say Die or Miracle, which have pretty generic lyrics, could’ve been interpreted in a more political light. If that was CHVRCHES intention. Or maybe they did want to make a pessimistic album about love. It’s their call, I’m just the interpreter.
And I interpret the lyrics of Wonderland to be kinda goofy. The couplet “Can’t live forever with my head in the clouds/Can’t predict the weather with my feet on the ground” sounds fine when Mayberry sings them over a lovely synth melody, but when written out each individual line is… goofy. Together, though, the couplet is almost clever for saying some kind of middleground is needed to preserve this Wonderland. Almost as if you can’t pick either extreme. Which is pretty universally true for most decisions. Clearly, I shouldn’t have picked the extreme self-hate, nor should I have chosen extreme self-love for this post. I should’ve simply stayed in the middle.
But that’s a song by jimmyeatworld, and we’re talking about CHVRCHES.
AT THE END OF THE DAY, Love is Dead is a much better album than I anticipated. It is on par with Every Open Eye in terms of quality. Both albums are worse than The Bones of What You Believe, but there are very few albums that can compare to that album. Album album album.