Categories
Music

Screen Violence: Anger, Fear, and Despair in Turbulent Times

I think we all have a band or an artist that sticks with us through the good times and (specially) the bad times. For me it’s Chvrches. I still remember the day my friend’s brother recommended it to me. I will never forget the first time I listened to them. For me Chvrches is the ultimate form of catharsis. I listen to it in some of my worst depressive episodes, in a rough break up, and when it just feels like the world is against me. Chvrches is the way I let my worst emotions get a hold on me so I can let them go. 

So let me get something clear, this is not a review, or at least not a normal one. I’m not a professional music critic, I don’t know anything about music theory. For me a good song is the one that connects to me and makes me feel all sorts of emotions. Read this more like a journey through my emotions as I listen to Screen Violence, more than a judgment of the quality of the album. 

The name of this album, some of the titles of the songs, the fact they partnered with John Carpenter for a remix of Good Girls, and the marketing for the whole project left perfectly clear that this album was inspired by horror, especially horror movies. So it’s no surprise that some of the feelings present throughout the album are fear, despair, escapism, and anger… a lot of anger. Lyrics like “And these violent delights/ keep bleeding into the light/ And I’ll never be right” and “Can I forgive if I forget/ All my mistakes and my regrets” really make you feel the state of guit that can push people to the edge. 

Screen Violence is a reference to one of the names the band thought about during their beginning, but it also makes reference that part of the album were made through screens (because the band was in different parts of the world), and the need of escapism (which, in a way can also be seen in the art of the album cover). After the shit show that was 2020 it’s hard not to feel the need to escape, and like I said I feel Chvrches is the perfect music to have some sweet sweet catharsis. But this album is as much violence as screen, meaning that no matter how much you try running away reality will catch up to you, and sometimes reality ain’t pretty.

I think the part I relate the most to this album is the way we deal with violence, both external and internal. Aggression is something we all deal with in one way or another, always standing on the edge of the line between existence and non existence. Songs like Violent Delights, How Not to Drown, and Nightmares hit extremely close to home, dealing with things like self hate, violence against yourself, and feeling possessed by anger and despair. It feels like Chvrches have created songs that really capture the feeling of being so angry that you simply disconnect from reality and all you can see is red. 

In contrast, songs like He Said She Said, Final Girl and Good Girls really bring the feeling of aggressive oppression. Lauren Mayberry has said in an interview that an important theme of this album is violence against women and this is clearly perceived one you listen to the album. I live in one of the countries with the most violence against women so this feels extremely real and necessary. I don’t dare to talk like I know what women experience in my country, but I believe what I can say is that we have created a narrative that helps exponentiate this violence, and Chvrches bring this into the light in a really strong way.

There are songs like Asking For a Friend, California, Lullabies and Better if You Don’t that invite you to the darkest corner of your mind to truly feel afraid. I recently saw a tweet that said we are so desensitized to actual horror (blood, monsters and killers) that the new kind of horror is emotional horror, because honestly, who isn’t afraid of their own emotions. I don’t know if this is true, but these songs capture that sentiment so well. The feeling of the isolation, the terrifying effects of sadness, the horrible despair of the impotence anger brings, the torture you make yourself go through in your mind.

This album feels a lot like past Chvrches’ albums, but this time it felt like they didn’t hold anything back, for me it was like raw emotions contained in a bottle of red viscous liquid. I tried to search for flaws in this album, I really did, but at the end of the day this album came at just the right time. I really needed an album like this, I needed to feel anger, fear and despair. I needed songs that made me just let go and blasted through the roof. Maybe Screen Violence won’t be for everybody, or maybe this is going to be celebrated as one of the best albums of the year… Honestly, I don’t give a shit, I’m just happy I got an album that pulled me into its deepest reaches and for 43 minutes transformed me into one of those monsters you see in movies.

So to finish this “review” and for you to experience this journey yourself, let me leave you with one of my favorite lyrics of the album:

“Swallowing the seeds of sin we sewed into the ground/ Keeping secrets until everything becomes to loud/ I could wash it down/ I could drown it down/ By filling up the silence with an organ sound/ And by writing sentences I used to think were kind profound”

Final Girl, Chvrches