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October 20, 2013 9:27 pm
Google’s mighty power extends even unto the names of pop bands. The need to be found among the billions of pages indexed by the search engine has fuelled an outbreak of peculiar monikers: Fun., Alt-J, The xx. If Oasis were starting out today they’d be called O@sis.
And so to Chvrches. The Scottish trio didn’t choose their name for its spiritual significance, but because it sounded “cool”. The “v” was added so people searching for them on the internet wouldn’t find themselves confronted by Wikipedia’s entry for “Church (Building)” or Norfolk’s ecclesiastical architecture.
The gambit has worked. The Glaswegians began the year on the BBC’s Sound of 2013 shortlist and are ending it with a debut album in the charts on either side of the Atlantic. A Google search of their name reveals a hearty 5,140,000 results, which is 3.5m more than the Church of Scotland.
Musically they’re in a crowded field, latest manifestation of a synth-pop revival that has been going on for most of the 2000s. The stage set-up at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire was generic. An electronic console stood on each side, both occupied by a bearded man. A female singer stood in the centre. All wore black. Dry ice billowed around them.
The threesome are newcomers to electronic music. Iain Cook and Martin Doherty previously played in guitar bands while Lauren Mayberry is a refugee from journalism. The songs’ textures, hammered out by Cook and Doherty at the consoles, had the sound of old tricks newly discovered – synthesisers rippling powerfully, bass-lines coiling through songs, dance beats building to a peak.
Alongside the rhythms were big chart-friendly melodies. “Recover” opened with a classic synth-pop routine but rapidly morphed into an arms-flung-wide epic, Mayberry, in defiance of the cold she was suffering, belting her lyrics as though impressing a line of X Factor judges. A degree of identity confusion ensued. “Lies” was dark and dramatic, its clashing momentum reminiscent of indie darling Grimes. In contrast “Gun” was an upbeat exercise in 1980s nostalgia.
Final song “The Mother We Share” brought Chvrches’ twin impulses together, Mayberry’s expansive choruses framed by her colleagues’ crisp, catchy synths. A vibrant light show added to the enjoyment. But they need more such moments to really stand out from the rest.
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