What became of real pop stars? This is a question I have asked myself over and over the last few years. As we’ve lost Prince, George Michael, and David Bowie, and there is no new Madonna, Bjork, Sinead, Tori, or nary even an Alanis in sight, I wondered when the next generation of legends would come, if ever. A few years back I got turned on to PVRIS when I still lived in their home state of Massachusetts, and I heard White Noise right when it came out. Then I saw them live, and whoa, I was blown away by them. However, one of the hardest things to pull off in music is the second album. Sure you have your entire first act to create a sound and cultivate your style. People are fickle and expect a lot as fans. Much tougher to grow from that and keep it going, but PVRIS has pulled it off impressively.
All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell (Rise Records) is phenomenal pop rock album heard through the sonic kaleidoscope of love, loss, guilt, and acceptance. Fully fleshed out songwriting with great performances all around on every track. Retro enough to please, modern enough production to excite, and catchy enough to last. Lead track ‘Heaven’ could have come right out of the 80s New Order and Tears For Fears Song Book. Beautiful melodies, haunting keyboards, 80s Burundi beat-esque marching drums, and the earworm of the year with the refrain “you took my, you took my heaven away” from singer Lynn Gunn. Gunn often sees the most attention in the band as she is the focal point, but the entire band has topped themselves on this release.
Gunn who has a lovely range, shows a lot more power then on their début. ‘Half’ is a heartbreaker, and her gritty impassioned plea about lost love drives a dagger right through the listener’s core being. ‘Anyone Else’ has a little bit of the urgency of the opener, with a lighter touch. The emotionally raw ‘What’s Wrong’ is a little more mid-tempo, danceable jam. Definitely going to be one for the concert setting.
Although ‘Walk Alone’ starts with a trip-hop vibe, it really morphs into a frenetic, stop-start pop number which really shows off Alex Babinski and Brian MacDonald and their dreamy soundscapes they help Gunn create. Other top tracks on the album are ‘Winter’, the soulful ‘Mercy’, and ‘Separate’.
So to return to the beginning of this review, what became of real pop stars? I don’t know if we will see an era of the 80s mononymous superstar solo artists and their bands. For now, we can hang our hopes on a group like PVRIS, who not afraid to make catchy, unapologetically great songs, and still keep ideals enough to believe in something, and be believed in, like the stars of old.