Pvris – Use Me (Warner Records)
Some artists will describe their work as a labour of love. Others may be left simply feeling the labour part of a played-out proverb. You’d have to forgive Pvris – and more specifically lead singer and writer Lyndsey Gunnulfsen, (commonly known as Lynn Gunn) – if their emotions sat somewhere in between.
Use Me marks not only the band’s third album but also draws a line in the sand for Gunn. Having been previously reluctant to step forward as the leader and creative force behind the Massachusetts trio, Gunn now seems comfortable in her own skin – crafting an astonishingly slick and genre-defying release.
The mooted release date for the album had been pushed back not once but twice in a year where both medical and social issues have reared their ugly heads. Originally slated for a May release, the band issued a statement pushing the launch back to July amid the Covid-19 pandemic. A further rescheduling would be announced as Gunn took to Twitter to explain ‘Self-promotion can wait for now and I want to make room and hold space for the conversation and message of the Black Lives Matter movement to continue’.
It was a noble notion that many bands may have struggled with considering the first single from the album, Death Of Me, was released in July 2019. Following a somewhat out of fashion notion of releasing singles before an album, five of the 11 tracks on Use Me have been previously released.
It certainly makes reviewing an album where roughly half the material has been heard already an interesting prospect. The beauty of Lynn’s creation, however, is the evocative moods it creates with previously released material slotting in alongside fresh tracks for fans to sink their teeth into.
Ethereal harmonies clash with chest-thumping bass notes. Soaring guitar riffs swirl amongst the sound of harps, in turn draping themselves over synth-laden scores. Delicate and vulnerable lyrics such as ‘One day I’ll give you my heart when it’s not in two. They say don’t open old wounds. But I’m going to’ collide into heavy bass lines.
Opening track, Gimme A Minute, flits between electronica, dance and pop before a guitar solo akin to early Muse will have you nodding along in appreciation. You’d be hard pressed to find a better track to sum up Pvris quite as neatly as Old Wounds manages to. It’s another genre fluid track that continues to defy the limitations other artists work within.
Since their first album, White Noise, the band has drawn somewhat lazy comparisons to the now defunct Paramore. Only now Hayley Williams has branched out into a markedly new sound are those comparisons even close to a reality. Throughout Use Me, the signs of Gunn stepping forward is evident. Good To Be Alive explores the current mental state she finds herself in after battling mental health issues throughout her life – providing a bridge from last effort, All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell.
Standout single Hallucinations should whet the appetite for future world tours and is guaranteed to have stadiums and festivals bouncing when the insanely catchy bass kicks in.
Loveless offers a rare acoustic and stripped back reprieve from the high-octane tracks that preceed it on the album. Closing track, Wish You Well, rounds off proceedings with a catchy funk hook that potentially steals the show at the death.
Everything to this point may feel like a gushing flow of compliments but, admittedly, Use Me may not be for everyone. The reluctance to commit to one or two genres may prove too much for some. It’s distinctly Pvris.
The production value is quite frankly impeccable: every noise, lyric and track feels deliberately placed. Rarely does the album feel gritty or dirty like the aforementioned Paramore. It is, instead, an extremely polished yet personal record.
The parting of ways with lead guitarist, Alex Babinski, amidst allegations of sexual misconduct just two days before the album’s release is a further example of how seriously Gunn takes her position as role model to the band’s legion of fans.
That decision also offers up question marks over the future of the band. But with a new-found confidence in their work, this feels more like a coming of age than a parting of ways for Pvris.