PVRIS, a band that have successfully carved out their own path in an industry that is full of like-for-like bands and artists. On paper, the formula of a female fronted band from an alternative independent label (Rise Records) seemed all too familiar; but with their barn-storming debut White Noise, it was apparent that PVRIS were a different breed.
Following up their debut with the morosely titled All We Know Of Heaven, All We Know Of Hell, a descent into the mind of singer Lynn Gunn and the troubles she had encountered. It was a gut-wrenchingly powerful record, full of emotion and excellent songwriting and once again, PVRIS had exceeded expectations.
Now, with their third effort (following an EP last year), PVRIS have returned with another explosive record. After signing to Warner, there was justifiable anxiety around the idea of ‘selling out’ but what PVRIS have demonstrated with Use Me is you do not need to sell your soul to continue your success.
While Use Me is more streamlined and mainstream sonically, what makes it so enjoyable is the balancing act the band maintains throughout the record. Big, bombastic sounds which would not sound out of place on the radio are met with strong and at times, elegant songwriting alongside convincing performances; both instrumentally and vocally.
If anything, Use Me is a natural progression from All We Know…. It builds on the intimate heartstrings and raw vulnerability of that record and continues to explore relationships, personal demons and experiences in a stadium packaged way.
Whether it is the buoyant synths, radio-ready chorus, and undeniable lyricism of opener “Gimme A Minute” or the melodic and electric “Dead Weight”; it is clear PVRIS have growth on their mind, both musically and commercially. Though these two songs are more akin to their previous work.
However, for Use Me, “Stay Gold” is the first encounter with the swirling whirlpool and an ode to mainstream electropop. Its elements are unquestionably commercial, from the glistening verses to the shimmering and liquified chorus which is devoid of emotion. All personality is lost within production wizardry at the cost of being catchy.
They have far better success with the middle streak of the record in terms of commercial appeal, from “Death Of Me” to “Loveless”, winding up being an absolute tour de force, and frankly it sounds like PVRIS on steroids.
The success of “Death Of Me” lies in the songwriting, the melodies and bridge alongside the chorus come together for an irresistible anthem. Gunn’s vocals act as the backbone, and without her conviction the track would feel flat. Musically, it is nothing new, but the sum of its parts makes the track what it is, lightning in a bottle.
“Hallucinations” is sheer pop excellence and it features one of my favourite choruses of 2020. The combination of soft, brooding instrumentation and poignant vocals come together to create an intoxicating experience.
Whereas “Old Wounds” and “Loveless” mirror PVRIS of old; gloomy, emotive songs built around sparse, haunting instrumentals propelled by Gunn’s heartache. The end of “Old Wounds” is sincere, oozing passion and heartbreak. Hearing the anguish in Gunn’s voice above the crashing synths and guitars is unforgettable. It is a truly soul-scorching crescendo.
And it perfectly segues into “Loveless”, the softer counterpart to the previous. The song is stripped back, focusing on the gentle strumming of an acoustic guitar and Gunn’s vulnerable lyrics which are amplified by her sincerity. The way her voice carries and conveys the emotional weight of the song is effortless.
Of course, she shines throughout the record and Use Me really feels as if it’s her ‘taking the mantle’ moment. This is her stepping forth as a frontwoman and owning her experiences, channelling them in a way that plucks the listeners heartstrings.
The last three songs are a departure from the emotion of what has come before and admittedly, they are a bit hit and miss. The title track “Use Me” is an experimentation with R&B and for me, it doesn’t quite work. Not only is it boring, it sounds unnatural and awkward while also being harpooned by a 070 Shake feature.
However, the album does not end with a whimper, but it certainly does not end with pyrotechnics, dazzling strobe lights and confetti. “Wish You Well” is the afterparty comedown; muted and mellow. If anything, it sounds tired and like the band ran out of emotional steam.
As a whole Use Me is a successful major label debut. PVRIS have for the most part managed to execute a commercial sound while retaining the elements that made them successful in the first place. If you want a well-executed, emotionally driven modern mix of pop and rock n’ roll then give it a spin.
Listen to PVRIS Use Me on Spotify below and stream or purchase it everywhere else here.
Words by Jake Gould