Review Summary: Standing ground.Use Me
will inevitably come as a disappointment to many PVRIS fans. Rather than rushing into uncharted territory, the band (now a duo) opts to bridge their first album's synth-pop and the alt-rock of their second into a muscular pop-rock hybrid. And while it might lack ambition, the album manages to find a compelling middle-ground to the band’s style.
What betrays it is a lack of clarity in this direction. “Pop-rock” is a vague umbrella term, and the band seems unwilling to define it for themselves. Much of the album is dominated by bluesy riffs and dance-rock beats, similar to Royal Blood or modern Queens of the Stone Age. Tracks like “Give Me a Minute” make a compelling case for this direction, but they stand largely at odds with the darker EDM influence of the album’s centerpiece run. Three tracks from the band’s prior EP release Hallucinations
were plopped unapologetically into the middle of this record, no sleep lost over their completely different approach to every other song on its tracklist, fusing surging synths with subtle guitar licks. They, most notably career-highlight “Old Wounds”, are distractingly stronger than the surrounding tracks, creating an unevenness to the album’s quality and tone.
Simply put, this is a good album filled with good songs. “Dead Weight” is a thumping rocker with an empowering sense of confidence. “January Rain” is one of the most genuine pop ballads I’ve heard all year. Each track here makes great use of vocalist Lynn Gunn’s commanding voice and the band’s dynamic talent. Some will no doubt fall into my playlists, but I don’t think I’ll return to the album often. The clear negatives aren’t what will deter me either, even the eye-roll choruses of “Stay Gold” or the embarrassing guest verse of the title track. The issue is that none of these songs build off each other in any meaningful way. There’s simply no emotional narrative here, no structure to the feelings or sounds.
Ultimately then, Use Me
is fated to be a “collection of songs” release. Maybe that was the intent. What’s disappointing about the record is not the content itself--it isn’t a step forward for the band, but it’s not their downfall either. Instead, PVRIS has stood their ground to mark the nebulous genre of pop-rock as their definite territory. It’s just looking less and less likely that they’ll step outside of it again any time soon.