After a much-needed break, Scottish synth trio CHVRCHES are back to exorcise their screen demons with fifth studio album ‘Screen Violence’. Since their debut, 2013’s ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’, CHVRCHES have positioned themselves as genre-bending underdogs in the mainstream. Their newest offering channels years of anguish into a single four-sided album sleeve, resulting in an uncompromising barrage of lyrical rawness and integrity.
From the get-go, vocalist Lauren Mayberry excoriates patriarchal contradictions in ‘He Said She Said’, biting catch-22’s like “He said you need to be fed, but keep an eye on your waistline / Look good, but don’t be obsessed.” The album’s lynchpin is ‘Final Girl’, a stratospheric iteration of ‘Disintegration’ era post-punk and chiming jangle-pop as Mayberry implores “In the final cut, in the final scene / There’s a final girl, does she look like me?” Lyrically we are faced with a sweeping narrative that represents CHVRCHES as a band, veiled in the ubiquitous horror film trope of the ‘final girl’; the gutsy heroine who perseveres through her terrors till the very end.
On-screen screams are confronted in tracks like ‘Nightmares’, with its static-filled instrumentals, X-Files style sampling and chunky choruses with Mayberry straining “Now I’m living a nightmare again and it won’t end.” The isolation attached to virtual living permeates much of ‘Screen Violence’ since it came together when CHVRCHES were apart. “Basically everything apart from final vocals and mixing was done totally separately,” says Mayberry. It was a time, she recalls, when “everybody was going down the rabbit hole of ‘What things have I done in my life that I regret?’”
Like the most deliriously wicked of horror films, ‘Screen Violence’ triggers our fight or flight mode and asks if we will be the ‘final girl’, or let ourselves be consumed by our own fears. Macabre king Robert Smith offers up vocals on ‘How Not To Drown’ in a milestone collaboration for the band, whilst lyrically recalling their darkest moments; when Mayberry reached rock bottom and wanted to “hang up the mic.” Mayberry despairs “I’m writing a book on how to stay conscious when you drown / And if the words float up to the surface / I'll keep them down” her words tarnished with melancholia and malaise. The end result is an electric mosaic of emotions, as it is clear CHVRCHES aren’t the band they were back in 2018. ‘Screen Violence’ is so striking it makes 2018’s ‘Love Is Dead’ seem almost blasé in its deliverance.
Essentially, ‘Screen Violence’ enjoys gouging into the heart of 2021, and offering it up to an unsuspecting stranger. CHVRCHES have cut a glistening gemstone out of the Covid zeitgeist and Clash is giddy with excitement to see what they come up with next.
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Words: Chloe Waterhouse
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