BY MISCHA PEARLMAN
Chvrches are blowing up all across America. The Glaswegian electro-pop trio are selling out huge venues in the country left, right and center – not bad for a band who have only been together since 2011, and whose only releases prior to this album are a few EPs and singles. Back home in Scotland (and the rest of the UK), their success has so far been more tempered, even though the bands that Iain Cook and Martin Doherty were in over there—the now-defunct Aereogramme and The Twilight Sad, respectively, though Doherty was only a touring member of the latter—are both well-known in indie circles and critically acclaimed. It’s probably worth pointing out that both bands are also better—more real, more intense, more heartfelt, more visceral—than Chvrches.
That’s not to say Chvrches are bad. The trio—completed by Lauren Mayberry and her sickly sweet, electronified vocals—have fallen upon a formula that works on The Bones Of What You Believe. Over glossy, synthetic beats full of color and light and the occasional flash of darkness, Mayberry croons with disaffected non-committal, the emotions of her words at odds with either the lack of emotion in her voice, or, alternately, the chirpiness of it. “We Sink” suffers because of the former, “Gun” the latter. “Lies” is a Madonna-esque ’80s anthem given a dark, existential makeover for the modern day, but one that’s not wholly believable, while “Recover”’s glossy sheen, catchy as it is, just becomes that little bit too trite, too saccharine, too sweet, too insincere.
There are, however, some affecting moments here, but they’re mainly on the tracks where Chvrches deviate from that formula that dominates these twelve songs. Opener “The Mother We Share” doesn’t stray too far from that path, but there’s enough distance to make it stand it out, to let a little bit of real, rather than affected, emotion shine through. That, though, pales into insignificance next to the forlorn, slow-motion lament of closer “You Caught The Light”. For the whole album, it sounds like the band are either striving too hard for emotion or trying to push it away, but never quite succeed at either. These five and half sublime minutes, however, are pure feeling and heart. Sure, it’s half Joy Division, half The Cure, but it works better than everything that precedes it, a hint of just how extraordinary this album could have been had Chvrches just let themselves feel more.
Instead, it’s merely average, one likely to fade into memory once the buzz dies down and the fire goes out.
DOWNLOAD: “You Caught The Light”, “The Mother We Share”, “Recover”