Review: Pvris - Use Me
Lynn Gunn bears all on Pvris's third studio album
Pvris are one of those bands who seem to have been a runaway success right off the bat. Their debut album White Noise, which fused influences ranging everywhere from Depeche Mode to Linkin Park to Circa Survive, has become rightly regarded as a classic of the 2010s. The creative centre of it all has always been the band's enigmatic frontwoman Lynn Gunn. Her phenomenal ability as a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist as well as her status as a gay icon (she came out during the album cycle for White Noise) and unique ability to wear her heart on her sleeve and empathise with anyone she comes into contact with has pushed her into the stratosphere of pop and rock stardom. This is something that eventually translated in the band moving from a massively successful period with rock and metal-based label Rise Records to a deal with major label Warner last year. This new album Use Me is the band's second release through Warner (the first was the Hallucinations EP last year) and their first full-length album on a major label.
It's not all been smooth sailing for Pvris though. Gunn has been through a hell of a lot of inner turmoil, ranging from physical and mental health problems to failing relationships and tabloid speculation (she was rumoured to be dating Kristen Stewart at one point). Furthermore, on the eve of the release of this new album, guitarist Alex Babinski was accused by multiple women of sexual harassment, resulting in the band parting ways with him. Considering everything that's been going on, you wouldn't be blamed for thinking that Use Me was going to be negatively affected by it as a piece of art. You're not counting on the person behind it though if you think that...
The first thing you notice about Use Me is the cover art and how indicative it is of who really is the centre of this album. Whilst Gunn had always been the creative force behind the band and had done most of the legwork in the studio, on Use Me she well and truly went at it alone. Enlisting the help of JT Daly (Paper Route) to help her produce the record, Gunn tracked every single instrument herself. The result is a record that's the most singular, focused and straightforward (in a good way!) Pvris record there has ever been. Gunn's ever-present drive to create the music she wants to put into the world has created the most powerful statement she's ever created in her career. This is something that's obvious right from the album's opener Gimmie a Minute with its analogue-sounding synths that build into a relentlessly driving groove, all of which carries an incredibly impassioned vocal that switches from beautiful vulnerability to an almost heavy metal abrasiveness reminiscent of the late Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell.
Speaking of Chester Bennington, Good to Be Alive has a very A Thousand Suns-era Linkin Park feel with its mid-tempo beat, sampled drums and arpeggiated guitars. It almost very well could fit on that album if it weren't for Gunn's vocal, which takes more of a soulful approach as she bears all on her sleeve about her personal struggles. There's some of that later-career Linkin Park/solo Mike Shinoda vibe on the album's title track too with its definitely much more hip-hop inspired textures and arrangements along with the inclusion of a guest spot from up-and-coming female hip-hop artist 070 Shake, although at its core it's still very much a Pvris creation.
The powerful statement of the opening track is beautifully contrasted by the acoustic-driven Loveless and the dark-pop ballad January Rain. Loveless is heart-wrenching in its simplicity, whilst January Rain is absolutely one of the best songs Gunn has ever written. Both tracks are a really welcome change from the synth-heavy and almost abrasive production of the album's other songs. I really hope that we get more songs like these two on future Pvris releases as writing honest, beautiful pop songs is definitely one of Gunn's biggest strengths as a songwriter.
We get a few reprisals from the Hallucinations EP in the form of Death of Me, Hallucinations and Old Wounds, but that's absolutely no bad thing as those three songs were already fantastic on the EP. All three of them completely fit in with the rest of the album musically and lyrically, so why not have them on there? In fact, Death of Me being on there with its massive, bass-heavy textures, only serves to amplify how much of a massive statement this album is creatively.
The album ends with Wish You Well, a song that right at the beginning references Gunn's close relationship with psychics (she often consults them as a form of guidance regarding her life and career) and brings a beautifully subdued end to the album. Gunn's influence from indie rock acts like Circa Survive really come out on this song with its meandering, heavily distorted bassline and layers upon layers of vocals and funky guitars. It's a perfect close to the album and it leaves you wondering a bit as to whether it's a sign of where Pvris is going to go in the future.
Use Me is Pvris's most open, most honest and best work to date. Gunn's vision and creativity being pushed to the centre stage was the best possible decision for the band to take; it's resulted in a creative statement that most other musicians would fail to match so powerfully. It's an absolutely flawless masterpiece and one that deserves to become timeless.
Pvris's most open, most honest and best work to date. an absolutely flawless masterpiece.