Monday, September 28, 2015

Chvrches - Every Open Eye Review

If there ever was a disparity between true Pop acts and Indie ones, masking themselves under the SynthPop name, that distinction has long since past with the rising popularity of Chvrches, The XX’s, Purity Ring, and more. Each one, not by coincidence, led by defiant female vocalists proudly thumping about relational problems, i.e. what’s dominating Billboard charts now and forever. The otherness SynthPop acts have often endured have allowed them to be welcomed into the Indie scene while welcoming a chance at stardom, Chvrches’ latest, Every Open Eye, further continues this forthrightness, a bright, blissful, energy-packed release that lacks in depth and originality. But, at this point, what more can you expect from one of the more pigeon-held genres in music today, limiting itself vastly in not just sounds but style and substance. Chvrches, above all their competitors, have the most talent and show the most promise, so their follow-up to 2013’s mostly stellar The Bones Of What You Believe will have piqued ears to accompany its release. Excluding a few clear, single-centric standouts though, Every Open Eye underwhelms by failing to make such an impact as its predecessor, playing things too safe by merely mimicking their distinct sound without evolving.

To announce their continuing relationship with Pop, Chvrches latest has three clear standouts, all shipped off, some with videos, prior to the album’s release. ‘Never Ending Circle,’ ‘Leave A Trace,’ and ‘Clearest Blue’ offer up potent kinetic energy, driving through with consistent rhythms and mesmerizing synth work. The opening, ‘Never Ending Circle,’ bears strong resemblance to ‘The Mother We Share,’ the debut’s intro, which also featured pounding synth lines and jarring vocal effects. As with the other singles, the song succeeds smoothly off its chorus which plays as a perfect festival starter. What can’t be denied about their latest release is Lauren Mayberry’s stalwart rebellion vocally, boasting loud and proud as if she’s actively trying to compete with the ever-increasing presence of soaring synths. At times on their debut she receded into the background, since the one-dimensional content failed to hold attention, her voice became more important but, at times, less prevalent. Here though, she demands attention, and on tracks like ‘Leave A Trace’ and ‘Empty Threat’ she blasts through with a fervor, the lack of creativity in the lyrics a near non-factor as her voice echoes of intended importance. 

While the lyrics of Every Open Eye regurgitate long held tropes of SynthPop, Pop, and 80’s Glam Rock, Mayberry does have her moments. ‘Down Side Of Me’ sees her looking critically at herself, questioning why she “never does what I used to,” while ‘Bury It’ focuses on the problems of the past, using them as stepping stones towards greater places. Mostly though, the album is filled with empty metaphors and unclear comparisons of relational issues with slight glimpses at the title and the concerns those with “open eyes” face. As confirmed with this latest release, Chvrches’ worst aspect is the content, a contrived message in a bottle that SynthPop continues to carry over needlessly. Vocally though, Mayberry is competent over Chvrches obsession with synths, Martin Doherty, who relieves the lead for ‘High Enough To Carry You Over,’ is not. On previous tracks he’s lead, namely ‘You Caught The Light,’ he flourished under the spotlight of crunchy synths and choppy, but alluring samples. Here he takes helm of the brightest track sonically, causing a unimpressionable piece that reeks of redundancy and drabness. Thankfully that’s only one track here, but that production sometimes is not, especially the second half as the album is intensely top heavy. 

As has always been the case with SynthPop, or better yet, Pop in general, the need for catchy rhythms and rousing instrumentation is a must. For Every Open Eye Chvrches does adequate, relying on what they do well, excelling in some aspects, sputtering in others. There is no greater example of their peak than ‘Clearest Blue,’ possibly their best track yet, at least in competition with ‘Tether,’ largely for its similarities structurally-speaking. What starts as a formidable anthem, a mission statement for the album, ripens into a explosive romp that shreds through the ear drums in the best way possible. The synths are thunderous, riveting, and boisterous. Throw in Mayberry’s repetition of the track title calmly and you’re in for a clear winner. There are moments before though, like ‘Make Them Gold’ with its incredulous ability to remake 80’s guilty pleasures, but few after, as the album quickly turns bare and stale. ‘Playing Dead’ couldn’t be created with a more run-of-the-mill set of synths, patterns, and effects, quickly becoming tedious in its prosaic structure, while closer ‘Afterglow’ is as predictable as they come with a slow finale drawing things out for forced emotion. ‘Bury It’ remodels the second half a bit though, throwing in a hard-nosed medley that bustles and bounces to Mayberry’s galvanic chorus.

It shouldn’t come as a shock that Chvrches sophomore release features a handful of stellar standouts mixed in with mundane joints offering little to nothing new, as for SynthPop, and festival music as a whole, that’s typical. The same goes for The Bones Of What You Believe, but where that album excels in occasional idiomatic production and the appeal of a new face on the block, Every Open Eye falters in an expected safe zone, drawing back an intense edge sonically for a more heedful collection of tracks. ‘Clearest Blue’ sees them at their brightest, bulging with energy, passion, and exultation, but that high spot only reveals the pitfalls of the album’s lesser moments. It’s interesting that, while the songwriting or content hasn’t developed, Lauren Mayberry’s vocals show the greatest improvement here, with a passion that’s sorely lacking in competition behind her. Overall, Every Open Eye further continues a trend signaling the soon-to-be downfall of SynthPop as a genre less instilled on invention and more content with churning out those three singles everyone knows and loves. Their inability to step out of the safe zone means Chvrches’ latest offers ease of enjoyment that’s gobbled up facilely, but fails in creating a memorable work that saw a group not rest on its previous laurels.  

No comments:

Post a Comment