‘Throw me no more bones and I will tell you no lies’ so goes the opening lyric to the first song, ‘Never Ending Circles’. From the title of their debut album (The Bones Of What You Believe), bones have been a constant metaphor in Chvrches work. With this first line, they allude to the continuing structure of their work, as one big piece: an allusion to integrity and affirmation. With the chorus being a cynical toast (‘Here’s to what you came for… and here’s to just another no man’, not unlike Kanye West’s ‘Runaway’), they further prove this.
Chvrches have evolved since their debut, this is evidenced at the very start. It’s the same, but leaner, meaner, more determined. The stumbling, cascading synths that open the album are harder than those found on The Bones…, and the aforementioned chorus bites more than anything on their discography yet. The rumbling basslines in the background of ‘Keep You On My Side’ and ‘Playing Dead’ feel genuinely threatening, but the soaring melodies from Lauren Mayberry’s voice keep them grounded in the defiant pop songs Chvrches have made their name with. They’re still giddy, still euphoric, and still bloody good.
The evolution in determination can be seen with ‘Clearest Blue’. Layers of synths slowly build over each other across two minutes, as Mayberry’s vocals dance over the beats, with lyrics depicting imagery of storms, symbolic of a relationship. The build-up itself feels euphoric, pulsing synths clutching the heartstrings, as Mayberry wonders why the storm always catches hold of her. Then, she yells ‘Will you meet me more than halfway up’ and all of a sudden the synths throb, bounce, dance. An explosion of wind and light, the most emotionally direct moment of the whole album, even with no words. Eventually, while the musical storm rages on, Mayberry’s vocals soothe and guide us back down to the ground: ‘saved by clearest blue’.
Mayberry has made efforts to hide the Scottish accent that decorated the first album, and while that absence does mean some loss of colour, she makes up for it in a stronger emotional thrust. The range and melodies hit in the chorus of lead single ‘Leave A Trace’ are simply impressive, while the verses display a control never before seen.
Unfortunately, sometimes this professionalism matches too well with the cleanliness of the music, as seen on ‘Make Them Gold’ and ‘Down Side Of Me’. With the former, the rumbling bass and glistening synths make for a dominating and confident presence, but when the hook comes in, Mayberry’s awkward melodies and cringe lyrics make for syrupy gloop. And while ‘Down Side Of Me’ has lush instrumentation and humbling back-up vocals, it simply goes on for too long, and the production diminishes most of what could have made an effective ballad.
But, again, mostly Every Open Eye is an effective package. ‘Empty Threat’ is the most upbeat and cheesy song of the album, to the point where the chorus might as well feature hand-claps, yet there is still the familiar grin-inducing rush that Chvrches bring. The cleanliness brings professionalism to the usual synth-based euphoria, with the harder songs showcasing what Chvrches could be doing on their next album.
The Bones Of What You Believe was a seminal album for many people, displaying highly emotional and defiant yet accessible synthpop songs that meant as much to their creators as they would do to their listeners. Every Open Eye is just a predictable continuation of that project, the usual sophomore release. But the thing is, Chvrches happen to be really quite good at what they do.