(Image from soundstagedirect.com)
I came upon Chvrches via another of my channels for discovering new music: Jian Ghomeshi’s Q on CBC Radio (other discoveries from there include two of my now favourite bands: Austra and Elbow). It’s through there that I gain exposure to most of the new Canadian bands I listen to and has me paying close attention to the candidates in the running for the prestigious Polaris Music Prize that Canada awards to its top album of every year. Chvrches, however, being the hottest thing to come out of Glasgow since Franz Ferdinand, is sadly not eligible for that award.
What is demonstrated on The Bones of What You Believe is the modern power trio working at its finest. Yes, admittedly, the whole trio sound has been replaced by machines – by and large, synths fill in for both guitar and bass (though the guitar makes a cameo appearance in a couple of tracks, it knows its place on this album) and drum machines take over the tireless job on all but two of the tracks – but this still rocks! The songs very much resemble arena rock anthems, but reduced in scale and put in a cube. Every one of Lauren Mayberry’s melodies are instantly memorable and singable – reaching, but not straining and very affecting. The synth riffs that back many of the big choruses here – were they a tad slower and played on guitar – easily fulfill that emotional, fist-pumping, energetic feeling that a good ol’ riff oughtta give you. The backbeat pounds incessantly to the beat of your foot stomping on the ground and the big tom splashes on “Science/Visions” get you psyched for the impending chorus. Every element is already there to energize you and get your head to bangin’.
But there’s no need to change a thing. New forms of music will always take their cues from the old, and this is no different – all the pieces are there, they are just in a different place (I know synth pop is hardly old, but its status of rock-usurper is still coming into being). In place of edginess, there is relentless peppiness (though the synth sounds of “Under the Tide” will have you convinced the synths themselves are trying to stage a bloody coup). The palette of vocal instrumentation is expanded as the vocals weave in, out and between the synth lines (the bouncing loop of vocals that opens the album on “The Mother We Share”, or the punctuated sighs and shouts in the background of “Lies”) – there’s no lack of emotion or gut feeling. Unlike the wave of synth popularity, there is no sense that the synths are being used to replace another, ‘real’ instrument – we’ve come to terms with the synth’s identity as itself, and Chvrches have embraced that attitude with aplomb.
This album is a fantastic chronicle of synthpop’s rise to power and an excellent collection of songs to just get you pumped -the overall energy is fantastic and the melodies hit all the heights you want them to without sounding forced or belaboured. Produced with just the right balance of slickness and space so that you get caught up without getting overwhelmed, The Bones of What You Believe is another fully-formed debut LP that both makes a great musical statement and promise for the future.