Screen Violence is an album drenched in stylization that never engulfs the heart of the matter. Isolation, trauma and fear all populate the undercurrent as Chvrches fourth offering finds the perfect balance between mood, meaning and melody. Traversing a time when communication is viewed via an artificial prism, Chvrches deconstruct the perceptions, expectations and effects of life behind a screen.
What is most striking about Screen Violence is its sense of scale. While the opening track, ‘Asking For A Friend’, opens with a stark sense of space, Chvrches quickly wrack up the sonic tension. As layer upon layer of crashing beats, twisting synth lines, and soaring vocals collide within the track’s dynamically weighty production.
This kinetic forward motion fills Screen Violence as a whole, bathing the record in the sort of high-stylization Chvrches have been building towards since their debut. There’s a precision both sonically and lyrically to the cinematic synth-wave of ‘Final Girl’, the clattering beat of ‘Violent Delights’ and the hazy pop of ‘California’ that adds color to the words powerfully portrayed by Lauren Mayberry, “God bless this mess that we made for ourselves, pull me into the screen at the end”.
There’s also a sense of frustration and the need to express that anger within Screen Violence. Songs like ‘He Said, She Said’ tackle toxic masculinity and the damage these relationships can cause, with lyrics like “He said, “You need to be fеd but keep an eye on your waistline”, and “Look good, but don’t bе obsessed”. Keep thinkin’ over, over.” are followed by “it’s hard to know what’s right. When I feel like I’m borrowing all of my time. And it’s hard to hit rewind.” This thematic thread continues on songs like ‘Good Girls’ as Mayberry’s words have a sense of defiance to them, “They tell me I’m hell-bеnt on revenge. I cut my teeth on wеaker men. I won’t apologize again.”
But ‘How Not To Drown’ captures the imagination most. Featuring a guest vocal from Robert Smith, there’s a deep sense of noir that falls from each beat. Chvrches are at the height of their powers and encapsulate the mood of Screen Violence itself with the precise sound they’ve been reaching for. Indeed, Smith’s inclusion feels thematically relevant rather than a dream collaboration for the band, with the back and forth between Mayberry and the Cure front-man linking intrinsically with the album’s overall mood.
And so it goes, Screen Violence is a work of big-stylization and deep emotion. A balancing act Chvrches have been pulling off since the beginning, but with an added sense of cohesion and scale. The album’s production and songwriting have melded into one, making the impact of the songs themselves all the more apparent. While the isolationism and anxieties of life spent in front of, or behind, a screen are laid bare thematically. Four albums in, and Screen Violence finds Chvrches in complete control of their music.