Photo Credit: Lindsey Byrnes
PVRIS (pronounced just like the capital of France) has returned with Use Me, their third LP, featuring more direct input by lead singer Lynn Gunn. The Lancaster, MA, band, formerly known as Operation Guillotine, sharpens their knife with this newest collection of songs that hits harder, bangs louder, and hurts deeper than anything they’ve previously released.
Confidence and self-assurance is abound on Use Me and are explored differently in pockets of the album. “Old Wounds” reclaims the inherent power in decision making about a relationship. The scorned lover who might be forgiven for feeling afraid to love again is a trodden archetype that is flipped here without naivety, feeling fresh and rock-solid. The last two minutes are emotionally treacherous, laying bare the emotional drivers behind the song: Gunn really wants this love again, and she’s grown to view the relationship from different perspectives. She says it’s the most direct love song she’s ever written, and it satisfyingly wreaks of toxic lust: “They say don’t open old wounds // But I’m going to.” The outro is a grating and slightly disturbing example of superbly-executed song-crafting.
The confidence seems inherent in Gunn as an artist, instilled from her named influences like The Weeknd, Radiohead, Florence + The Machine, and Paramore. All four projects are fronted by or attributed to charismatic characters with noticeable (and in some cases, epic) stage presence. Her affinity for different styles of music that convey the same messages of frustration and despair shape her music in very specific ways. The title track with G.O.O.D. Music artist 070 Shake grooves like Kiss Land-era Weeknd with a similar masochistic appetite and cool demeanor. It also feels like a cut from 070 Shake’s own debut album, Modus Vivendi, steeped in ASMR-like whispered harmonies and electronic static. “Loveless” even reads like a rejected track from a prior Ariana Grande project. The versatility only adds to the record’s strengths, illustrating the band’s ability to weave influences into their own storyline instead of distracting the listener.
Elsewhere, Gunn explores building different types of energetic musical explosions. The opener “Gimme a Minute” begins with tepid apathy but it mounts and mounts to an eruption worthy of a stage at Glastonbury, not dissimilar to the sound of PVRIS’s former tourmates Muse. “Dead Weight” is Cage the Elephant-meets-Arctic Monkeys with its hefty chorus, sinister guitars, and sarcasm. “Stay Gold” is a Las Vegas-rock cut with a swaggering strut and blistering synths that begs to be played at a music festival. Best of all is “Death of Me”, shaking up whatever expectations are left by adding elements of club culture and disco glam to strong R&B, with a bridge that might as well have come from Kylie Minogue.
Through the entire album, PVRIS craft an adrenaline-fueled ride fast-tracked for their future and provide ample material for upcoming live sets, whenever those resume. The album’s production is fantastically complementary to its message – it’s glossy but heavily damaged. Gunn’s strength as a collaborator and as a bandleader blossom further in the small flourishes throughout Use Me that cement it as a thoroughly enjoyable listen and offer new revelations upon each new listen. Use Me speaks to the intellect and the bravery of its creators’ visions without holding anything back.