The defining moment on the wonderfully taut and dramatic second album from electro-pop band Chvrches comes at the 2:13 mark of the massive stomper (one of several) ‘Clearest Blue’.
Following a spectacular build that makes headphone listening in a public space difficult if jumping is prohibited, the track explodes into an instrumental hook which is very nearly Depeche Mode’s ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ but not quite. It seems to be a nod to the very obvious influences of their past, and in particular early Depeche Mode and Yazoo’s only two albums both released in the early 80s, but in doing so also demonstrates their supreme songwriting skills which prevent Every Open Eye from ever sounding like a tribute record.
On their debut The Bones of What You Believe, the three-piece Scottish group delivered an album that contained a generous handful of brilliant pop songs but with some less fully realised tracks that lessened its overall impact somewhat.
Lauren Mayberry may not have the earthy growl of a Dave Gahan or Alison Moyet, but her vocals have a crystalline intensity which established very early on a charismatic and distinctive front- person. On Every Open Eye she has developed her style further allowing her to in particular confidently dominate the pounding bangers that have been scaled-up considerably from The Bones of What You Believe.
In addition to ‘Clearest Blue’, which has already been established as a live festival highlight, the Robyn-like ‘Keep You on My Side’ hurtles itself down a speeding track of hyperactive and infectious melody lines and synths and when Mayberry breathlessly sings, ‘I don’t sleep well, laying low,’ you believe her.
Opening track ‘Never Ending Circles’ has the snipe and incredulous attitude that the band established with earlier tracks like ‘Lies’ and has a dual-chorus – one vocal and the other made up of a stuttered vocal snippet and keyboard riff. It hammers its point home majestically.
‘Bury It’ does the same thing again brilliantly and tweaks a repeated synth hook ever so slightly but with massive effect as the track progresses.
This frenetic mood does trail off as the album moves into its later stages with ‘Playing Dead’ literally slowing things down. It deploys the same song structures and musical tics that populate its speedier companions but with a mournful slant.
It’s on ‘Downside of Me’ that the band move into an area that, although still concise and carefully considered, is not only the longest track but also the most soulful. With Mayberry’s overlapping vocal melodies and harmonies that reach a gorgeous peak towards the song’s end, the clicking rhythms and R’n’B beat suggest how Timbaland-produced Aaliyah may have sounded in 2015.
There are still some areas that the band needs to put time into. Giving Martin Doherty sole vocal duties on ‘High Enough to Carry You Over’ destroys some of the flow beautifully set up by Lauren Mayberry’s energy on the album’s more muscular first half, and there are times where evidently minor songs such as ‘Empty Threat’ are guilty of gently reworking other, stronger melodies that feature on either side if it.
Soggy album closer ‘Afterglow’ is a ballad that doesn’t deliver the emotional impact it is desperate to impart. These are minor considerations, however, as Chvrches have proved with Every Open Eye that they are one of the most accomplished bands on the scene currently and have effortlessly bridged the gap between electronic dance music, as opposed to EDM, and expertly written, wide-eyed pop.