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Little Simz, Iron Maiden and More: Reviews of September’s Best Albums | Music

In 1992, American film teacher Carol J Clover published Men, Women and Chain Saws: genre in modern horror movie (Princeton University Press). In it, he introduced the concept of the “final girl”, a female protagonist who survives the bloodbath to face the slasher in the final scenes. If the final girl is heroic, she is also a troublesome figure, kept alive by the filmmaker due to her sobriety or chastity, while other women who have more fun take the ax. The sequel makes the girl’s final victory pyrrhic anyway.

Halfway Screen violenceChvrches’ intense fourth album, a song called Final Girl, puts a more personal use of the well-worn trope of horror. Lauren Mayberry, spokesperson for the Glasgow synth-pop trio, doesn’t want to “end up in a bodybag.” In 2019, Chvrches co-wrote a great tune, Here with me, with Marshmello. The EDM DJ then went on to work with Chris Brown, the rapper convicted of violently assaulting Rihanna.

Chvrches tweeted his dismay. The trolls descended with rape and death threats. Chvrches beefed up his security and moved on, reflecting on the rotating moral compass of the entertainment industry and his own mortality. (Covid obviously helped with that too.)

Chvrches: Screen Violence album cover.
Chvrches: Screen Violence album cover. Photograph: Public Relations Brochure

As the song Final Girl silently considers the curious ins and outs of fame, Mayberry wonders if he should be “screaming.” In other places, he is having “nightmares”, immune to the comfort of “lullabies”. “They are reading my rites,” he sings in a song called Violent Delights.

At their core, the Chvrches are a Glasgow indie band, one that has tapped into their keen understanding of the synth euphoria in the major international pop leagues. They have faced trolls before. Although Mayberry, Iain Cook and Martin Doherty now routinely fight with factory-made pop-EDM franchises, with female vocalists, especially since they take on the mainstream. Love is Dead 2018 LP: Their formative years in the underground have always provided this trio with a sharp and occasionally dark edge. It is no longer an advantage, but the defining characteristic of this boxing album.

A great, icy romp recorded by all three members in isolation until they could come together for vocals and finishing touches. Screen violence doubles cinematic tropes, gets closer to horror author John Carpenter for remixes. It has the best tribute to Cure de Chvrches, How not to drown, as a duet for The Cure’s main man, Robert Smith, now again in demand as a guest vocalist for Validation (cf. Strange timez) as delays plague The Cure’s fourteenth album and its the bass player leaves.

Of course, “screen violence” isn’t limited to unsavory ’80s videos. It encompasses the reality distortion of the screens at our fingertips, as well as the pleasure of escapism: silly horror can still be a nice scrolling activity.

The inner horrors (doubt, regret, disappointment) are present and correct here as well, as Mayberry reflects on her own past behavior in the album bookends, Asking for a Friend and Better If You Don’t. Even when Chvrches deals with the world at large, this is a very personal album for the singer-songwriter. “I wish I had gotten closer to my mother,” he sings in Lullabies. Regardless, she comes out swaying, just like that last girl. Mayberry has even playfully bleached her hair blonde in tribute to all those low-budget, high-ranking movie heroines.

Then there is another living nightmare: being enlightened by society, as well as your intimate partner. The chvrches have a song that definitely nails that too: the huge mallet that seeks the sand He said she said, a two-handed game in which a “he” plays mind games with Mayberry’s “she”. It echoes the edicts of culture in general. Be slim, but not too skinny. Drink, but “don’t be a mess.” “It’s all in your head,” he scoffs. “I feel like I’m losing my mind,” Mayberry responds, not without reason. If the sound of Chvrches can be bombastic, it is serving a massive theme.

Watch the video of He Said She Said by Chvrches.

Why do the final girls survive? Because they are “good” girls, who please morally honest people and whose own pleasure takes a backseat to being nice and pretty. In the movies, those girls are still alive. Real life is much more complex.

Here the song Good girls it condemns the double standards under which women are forced to live and the endless parade of male artists whose misdeeds continue to be exposed. “Killing your idols is a chore, and it’s so fucking boring, because I don’t need them anymore,” Mayberry sings. She is also done with being a good girl. “I will not apologize,” he declares unequivocally.

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