Sunday, December 22, 2013

Album Review: Chvrches – The Bones of What You Believe (2013)

It’s one thing to ride a wave of positive publicity and become the latest indie-band-flavour of the month … it’s quite something else to produce an album that outlives the initial hype.

That was a task faced by Scottish band Chvrches (said as “churches” … go figure) earlier this year, when for a few short months there, it seemed as though the band’s name was splashed across just about every music website I dared to visit, not to mention some of the more mainstream sections of the music press.  
The Bones of What You Believe duly arrived mid-year, and it’s fair to say it did so as one of the more talked about first-up albums of the year. I’m not sure it quite matches the level of hype it’s attracted, and I’m really not so sure I understand what all the fuss is about.

But evidently it’s just me who doesn’t quite get it … in terms of “critical acclaim”, the album certainly appears to have lived up to the lengthy drum-roll afforded it … and it’s also made a major impact commercially; going top 10 in the UK, topping the US independent album charts, and hitting number 12 on Billboard.

Not a bad return for a young band that only played its first gig in July of 2012.

And it’s not bad as an album either, it’s just not all *that* special. And hardly the album-of-the-year contender it’s been touted as in some quarters.

The Bones of What You Believe is essentially 48 minutes of solid synthpop; decent tunes gleaming brightly against a backdrop of highly polished pop production. There’s plenty of drama to be had and it also offers some great pop hooks. All pretty good things.

But what taints the listening experience for me – and I write this as a fan of the genre, and as an often irrational sucker for bands working out of Glasgow – are the parts where Lauren Mayberry sings, which unfortunately, actually covers the bulk of the album.

Mayberry’s voice is pleasant enough, sure, but across the course of an entire album it starts to feel a little tiresome – too lightweight, a bit too saccharine, and it steers the music far too far towards the throwaway teenpop/bubblegum end of the pop spectrum.

The album reminds me a lot of The Naked And Famous debut effort of a few years back, and while this is a decent enough first up album as it stands, I really don’t see Chvrches as a band with any long-term credibility beyond the realm of pure chart pop.

The band may have produced a “critical” hit fresh up, as yet another one of those next-big-thing type debutantes, but the true test of the band’s resilience comes next time out. When the next album arrives … after people have had this one in their collections long enough to get a handle on whether or not they really need to go back for seconds.

Download: ‘The Mother We Share’, ‘Lies’ (clip below), ‘Night Sky’ and ‘Lungs’ …


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