According to the mainstream music press, there’s always been a “new Depeche Mode” on the horizon. Every time a band tries to combine rock music with any form of electronica, the name “Depeche Mode” crops up as a comparison because most music journalists can’t think of anyone else who fits the bill. That’s probably annoying to the band or performer being labeled with the unhelpful label. It’s probably even more annoying for Depeche Mode, who are a long way from retired and don’t want anyone else to come along and take their spot just yet. Sometimes, though, bands place themselves on themselves. Given the size of the shoes they try to step into by doing, so it isn’t always a good idea, but Chvrches is the latest band to try.
While the comparison is overused to an irritating extent, there’s no doubt that Depeche Mode is one of the most influential bands of all time. Aside from inspiring other performers, their influence has spread to other forms of entertainment. Check out the soundtrack to any moody noir-esque film from the past few decades – “Drive,” for example – and you’ll hear hints of Depeche Mode. Log onto an online slots site and play one of the darker-looking slots, and you’ll hear a soundtrack that takes elements from Depeche Mode. The band itself doesn’t have its own official online slots game, which isn’t something that can be said of many of their contemporaries, but the style of their music touches almost every electronic form of entertainment. Either a disproportionate number of people who create online slots are Depeche Mode fans, or they pioneered a style of music that went on to serve other purposes.
The reason Scottish band Chvrches are back in the news and connecting their name to that of Depeche Mode is that they’re imminently due to release their fourth album, and they claim that they’ve been listening to a lot of the best work of Dave Gahan, Martin Gore and the rest of the gang while making it – so much so that it’s left an imprint on their music. Depeche Mode isn’t the only interesting name dropped by Chvrches either. Apparently, they’ve also been listening to a lot of the Cure, and you’ll also be able to hear that in a few of the album’s songs. According to frontwoman Lauren Mayberry, the band has been looking to change their style after the failed experiment of their 2018 album “Love is Dead” and are looking for something more akin to the sound of their previous two albums – albeit with a 1980s old-pop twist.
The album, which apparently wasn’t on the agenda at the start of 2020, is largely the result of Chvrches being unable to tour anywhere for the entire year and spending the year listening to their favorite artists of the past and writing new music instead. Through sharing those sessions with each other, they’ve created a dozen-or-so new tracks that they’re all happy with and claim that they haven’t been as excited about a new album since their debut in 2013. Mayberry warns that the new album won’t be “frilly” but notes that the times we’re living through don’t call for “frilly” pop anyway. It sounds like what we’ll be getting will very much be a product of the current global environment. In terms of lyrics, she adds that she sat on her own in a room and wrote down a long list of all the things that she’s most afraid of, so comparisons to The Cure and Depeche Mode might not actually be wide of the mark when everything’s said and done.
There might be a twist to this story yet, though, because the band’s influences appear to change depending on who Mayberry is talking to. Most of the information we’ve detailed above comes from a recent interview that she gave to British newspaper The Guardian. A few days ago, she also spoke to the NME and reeled off a few different influences, including Billie Eilish. In that latter interview, she praised Eilish’s unique vocal style and claimed that the whole band learned something from listening to the “advancement of pop music” that Eilish’s 2019 debut album represented. We don’t necessarily have anything against Billie Eilish. The idea of a Chvrches record influenced by Billie Eilish actually sounds interesting to us, but there’s a big jump between Billie Eilish, The Cure, and Depeche Mode. Eilish’s music has elements in common with gothic electronica, but you’d struggle to see her and Depeche Mode sharing a stage.
When the album does eventually appear, it will be the first significant new material from the band since the 2018 “Love is Dead” album, which was a near-complete departure from their usual lo-fi style. They did release one single with DJ Marshmello in 2019, entitled “Here With Me,” but that was more of a Marshmello song than it was a Chvrches song. Although they’ve spent one year working on the new album, which doesn’t have a name yet, they’ve had a whole two years to come up with new concepts. That means everything Mayberry is saying could be true. They might have found a way to weave together elements of the greatest bands of the 1980s with touches of Billie Eilish while still managing to hold on to the things that make them unique. If so, it should be a remarkable album. At the same time, it would be every bit as experimental as their 2018 release – which is probably exactly what their label would prefer them to avoid.
As the album doesn’t have a name yet, it’s probably some way from being released. We don’t even know for certain that it’s been fully recorded. Presumably, the band would prefer to release new material when it’s possible to tour in support of it, and that might not be for several months yet. We’ll be interested to hear this new Chvrches project when they’re ready to let us hear it, but we suspect we’ll be waiting a while yet. As and when there’s anything else to report, we’ll do our best to let you know here – especially if the whole Depeche Mode angle turns out to be accurate.
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