When we talk about indie-pop bands that made it big, CHVRCHES is the band that always comes to mind. Comprising of Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook, and Martin Doherty, the Scottish trio has arguably defined the indie sound of the early 2010s with their debut album The Bones of What You Believe. With 10 years under their belt as a band, CHVRCHES has since then evolved, but still manages to retain their signature sound even with their fourth studio album Screen Violence.
As a follow-up to 2017’s Love is Dead, CHVRCHES’ fourth studio album follows a complex cohesive theme revolving around anxiety and other psychological effects of both real life and reel life–social media included. While Love is Dead is the band’s closest attempt to pulling off a more mainstream sound, Screen Violence tries to dial it back and go back to CHVRCHES’ grassroots.
With the album debuting today, we review the entirety of Screen Violence and see if the latest work of CHVRCHES is a solid indicator of the trio staying true to their indie-pop roots.
Asking for a Friend
The opening track of Screen Violence is a banger, and that’s because it is a new CHVRCHES song that is very reminiscent of their early works. It has the perfect blend of Mayberry’s vocals with those complex synths from Iain Cook and Martin Doherty, and I’m not gonna lie: this is definitely a great way to introduce CHVRCHES’ fourth studio album to fans of both new and old.
He Said She Said
As the first track that was revealed, He Said She Said is the most mainstream track in Screen Violence. The track has an interesting theme revolving around the dangers of a relationship that is very controlling, leading to one that can be toxic for partners in the long run. This is essentially the perfect song to play when your partner becomes too toxic for your own sanity.
This track tones it down a bit, and is one of the more chill songs in Screen Violence. The synths used here are reminiscent of CHVRCHES’ earlier works like Asking for a Friend, but Mayberry gave California a new twist with her vocals and the manner of how she sings every line of the song.
While Screen Violence is more of the trio revisiting their signature sound, Violent Delights is arguably the most experimental track in this album. It reminds me (to an extent) of the song they made for Death Stranding. Older fans might not be used to the approach of this track, but they will appreciate how good is the trio in trying out different things to their songs.
How Not to Drown
As one of the few collab tracks that CHVRCHES has in their official albums, the standout feature of this song is the sharp lines of the drum machines, along with the seamless transition of vocals between Lauren Mayberry and The Cure’s Robert Smith. This track focuses on anxiety–a revolving theme that practically everyone can relate to especially in this pandemic era.
If I considered Violent Delights as the most experimental track in Screen Violence, Final Girl comes in a close second because it is one of the very few CHVRCHES songs that tones down on the use of synths and have bass-heavy lines. Not to mention, this track is the epitome of the horror movie theme of Screen Violence with lines that say “In the final cut/ In the final scene/ There’s a final girl/ And you know that she should be screaming.”
My first listen of Good Girls brought me memories of CHVRCHES’ works during the Every Open Eye era. The track revolves around the theme of qualities of good girls (pun not intended), and how they have their own limits as well. This is personally my favorite track in the album, as it perfectly showcases the blend of the Moog synthesizers with Mayberry’s vocals.
This track is a typical song I usually encounter on any CHVRCHES album–one that has a simpler synth layering, focusing more on Mayberry’s vocals. However, a closer look at the lyrics reveals a darker meaning, especially with lines like “So televise the great disaster / We’re better off inside of the screen sometimes”.
If you are into songs that will raise the hair on your skin, Nightmares is the track for you. That intro is definitely hair-raising, and I love how the track progresses until the chorus. This song feels like you are playing a video game that has a very emotional scene. With lines like “I was no sweet dream but I was never a nightmare”, Nightmares is that song that makes you think of all the decisions you have made in life.
Better if You Don’t
To close Screen Violence is a track that makes use of electric guitars, giving it a very laidback feel as you simply hum along with Mayberry. Unlike Nightmares, Better if You Don’t is less grand and builds up slowly. Despite its laidback feel, Better if You Don’t is a break-up song of sorts, with Mayberry swearing that she will try her best to forget everything that happened in the past and focus more on herself instead.
CHVRCHES Screen Violence Album Review Verdict
Regardless if you are a long-time fan of CHVRCHES like me or someone who recently got introduced to them, our review of Screen Violence is definitely on the plus side: CHRVRCHES’ decision to dial it back and revisit their signature sound is well worth it, especially with how they put a new twist to the tracks in Screen Violence–be it how Mayberry utilizes her trademark vocals, or how Cook and Doherty reimagine their signature synth sounds.
Screen Violence is what Love is Dead would sound in a less mainstream manner, and CHVRCHES managed to thread the waters carefully while evolving their signature sound.
You can listen to the whole album on Spotify or Apple Music.
Don’t forget to check out our other album reviews on the site: