Review: CHVRCHES - Get Out

By XK Yong

Following a social media wipe and a bizarre teaser, CHVRCHES have released their first new single in over a year. Coinciding with that night's lunar eclipse, “Get Out” was premiered on January 31st with a video coming right after. It’s a three-minute taste of their left-of-center synthpop, filled with hooks and carried by frontwoman Lauren Mayberry’s soaring vocals.

Up until now, CHVRCHES had exclusively wrote and produced their own records - but they’re switching things up for their third LP, titled Love Is Dead. Superproducer Greg Kurstin is joining them in the studio, rounding off a successful year of collaborations with artists like Sia, Halsey, and Foo Fighters. They’re also working with lyrics differently - while the trio used to finish a track together before Lauren dealt with the writing, this time they strove to "have lyrics happen more naturally, as the music came".

For all the changes they made to their process though, Get Out feels like more of the same. With CHVRCHES it's not necessarily a bad thing, as the consistency of their sound is something many aspire toward: pop enough for widespread appeal, yet indie enough to stay distinctive. While 2013 debut The Bones Of What You Believe garnered critical acclaim, their sound has hardly evolved in the four years since. If anything, they lost the emotion and edge of earlier efforts - the contrast of angst-ridden lyrics with punchy 80s synthwork - leaving behind a backbone of anthemic choruses with little to back them up. And unless the end-goal is mediocrity, the supposed ambitiousness of this new single is nowhere to be seen.

Perhaps the most underwhelming part of Get Out is its lyricism. While CHVRCHES have always been known for their vague writing, here they make an art form out of using a bunch of words to say a whole lot of nothing. The first time I heard the song, lyrical zingers like “Never getting what I wanted/getting what I needed” and “Good intentions never good enough” floored me with how empty they were. Taking up over half of the chorus is the already generic phrase “get out”, repeated ad nauseam.

Shockingly though, CHVRCHES have proven that they can in fact write. Bones displayed a surprising amount of maturity and a flair for nuance, the single Recover (for example) addressing the ideas of control and loss in a doomed relationship. While still impressive in its own right, sophomore album Every Open Eye already showed signs of being neutered. It was more ambiguous and didn’t cut nearly as deep, a scented candle to the forest fire of passion that was Bones. Fast forward another album, and Get Out is an even feebler attempt.

As a longtime fan, I find it hard to accept my gut feeling that CHVRCHES is on a decline. In a December interview, Lauren said that their upcoming album would be “the most pop stuff [they've] done and also the most aggressive and vulnerable at the same time”. So I’m hoping against hope that Get Out was a fluke, that the rest of Love Is Dead lives up to its emo-tinged name and delivers on those promises. For Get Out is simplistic and safe, adequately catchy but lacking the urgency and sharpness of their earlier work. CHVRCHES can do better.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHUKKrcXfJs