The Glasgow electro-pop trio CHVRCHES are back with pomp and circumstance, touting their fourth album, Screen Violence, due August 27.
The lead single “How Not to Drown” is bundled with a high-profile guest spot, featuring The Cure’s Robert Smith. After a wave of synths, CHVRCHES ditch their trusted arpeggiator and lay down a rhythm of drums and piano for vocalist Lauren Mayberry to surf over. “I’m writing a book on how to stay conscious when you drown,” she attests. Mayberry has never held back in her delivery, inimitably emoting like Talk Talk’s Mark Hollis, daring anyone to mimic her without embarrassing themselves. Like most CHVRCHES anthems, the verse climbs into the sky with the chorus, “Tell me how it’s better when the sun goes down.”
Robert Smith takes over the second verse, writing his own chapter for when his lover is dug up from the ground. Smith refuses to go over the top here, remaining in neutral with a deadpan delivery. The drama that Smith is known for in The Cure remains shackled behind a thick attic door, with pounding from the other side mostly muted. Smith’s voice stays buried deep in the chorus mix, refusing to break through and preventing one of CHVRCHES’ most memorable choruses from reaching another level of affect.
CHVRCHES never strays from their dependable formula of emo-synth with “How Not to Drown.” Smith rides shotgun to Mayberry’s vocals for rest of the song, echoing her verses. Smith finishes off the song by himself, wounded, refusing to give up on love, ultimately winding down to a whisper. With the reigning godfather of goth rock in tow, CHVRCHES emerge from the clouds of the last year-and-a-half with a shotgun blast of sugary synth rock, destined to spray from a festival stage soon.