PVRIS are not the same band they were when they released their first EP ten years ago. For a start, they now only have one full-time member: founder and multi-instrumentalist Lyndsey Gunnulfsen. And almost a decade after they debuted on the scene as a post-hardcore band with 2014's White Noise, they now lean heavily into the dark electropop that was peppered through their subsequent releases on their fourth album, which its creator describes as "a reclamation of control in our post-pandemic culture, posing a complex discussion on fame, technology, spectacle, and female autonomy." EVERGREEN is a fast-paced, urgent record, with only a few of its 11 songs exceeding the three-minute mark, and it's notable for a sharp musical divide between the first and second half that makes the album, well, divisive.
The first chapter of EVERGREEN delivers five massive songs that really demand your attention. I DON’T WANNA DO THIS ANYMORE takes the electropop elements from 2020’s Use Me to new heights, eschewing most of the more traditional rock stylings that PVRIS had held onto up until now. That’s not to say that Gunnulfsen has shed her alternative rock past entirely – the huge drums of GOOD ENEMY and the riffs that back GODDESS beg to differ – but electronica is the main focus of the album. GODDESS sits somewhere between Muse’s Supermassive Black Hole and Rina Sawayama’s Comme Des Garçons, a testament to the unshakeable confidence of the album’s opening songs. And Gunnulfsen cultivates a specific kind of dark electropop in grungy tracks like HYPE ZOMBIES and I DON’T WANNA DO THIS ANYMORE with the kind of intensity that will really come to life on stage.
But this intensity is disappointingly short-lived. The second half of the album is introduced with EVERGREEN’s poppiest songs, TAKE MY NIRVANA and SENTI-MENTAL, losing much of the underlying heaviness heard earlier. Although they are undeniably catchy, the energy starts to wane as we enter the chapter of EVERGREEN that struggles to maintain momentum. The pop focus isn’t a problem in itself, more that it lacks the grittiness and convincing delivery that made the beginning of the album so appealing. There’s an uptick in interest with the unique instrumentation of the final songs, LOVE IS A… and the titular EVERGREEN which brings you back on board before the album draws to a close, but it's not without the feeling that something is missing.
Despite its disappointing second half, EVERGREEN has plenty of merits. "More than ever, PVRIS has, and always will be anti-formula, anti-virality, and anti-instant gratification", Gunnulfsen declared ahead of its release, and it's to her credit that she's intent upon pushing boundaries, exploring new sonic territories and refusing to take easy wins. But while she embraces this more fluid approach, those initially seduced by PVRIS may feel the loss of that alt-rock spark that made the group such an irresistible prospect in their early years. When EVERGREEN is at its best, it bursts with life, but after such a promising beginning, you can’t help but feel short-changed.