Yesterday, Scottish synthpop trio CHVRCHES released the music video for their single “Under The Tide,” and boy, is it trippy. The video appears to be, simply put, an entrancing clash between 80s tropes and a disjointed anime tale – and it seems a totally appropriate visual accompaniment to this, the latest single off the group’s acclaimed 2013 debut full-length, The Bones of What You Believe.
Perhaps the most striking visual element of “Under The Tide” is its abundant use of the so-bad-it’s-good type of 80s production that’s so chic, these days. Viewers might note the conspicuous similarities in imagery, visual motif, and cinematography between this video and some of those for the band’s other singles. These notions would be well founded, as “Under The Tide” was directed by Sing J. Lee, who also made CHVRCHES’ videos for “Lies” and their hit “The Mother We Share.” However, while Lee’s directorial style lets the audience know this is most definitely a CHVRCHES video, it renders the piece itself somewhat unexceptional, visually speaking, within the canon of the band’s videography.
The majority of “Under The Tide” is comprised of clips of CHVRCHES vocalist Martin Doherty interspersed with animations of geometric figures and landscapes that look like something out of the movie TRON, as well as shots of Doherty and his bandmates – who are occasionally animated as constellations against the spacey background pervading much of the video – and a fragmented, though romantic, anime narrative. That Doherty is showcased in this video should be of particular note to fans and viewers alike, as most people who know CHVRCHES would probably be hard-pressed to cite him as the band’s lead vocalist. That’s because he isn’t. Doherty is the band’s backing vocalist, secondary to singer Lauren Mayberry’s usual lead; the former is usually seen mashing drum pads and triggering samples, while the latter is most often paid the majority of attention as one of indie music’s most lauded frontwomen (especially after she lashed out at internet creeps in a blistering invective, last year).
Doherty’s lead vocal duties on this tune make “Under The Tide” both visually and aurally unique – and while his on-camera gesticulating and lip-synching are notably awkward, his mannerisms seem to gel with the clumsy, lilt of his vocal phrasing, which always seems to fall just around the beat, hardly ever on it. He sways narcotically to and fro, eyes half open, sometimes flailing his arm to accentuate a particular note or phrase. The more unabashed and deliberate his mannerisms appear, the more purposeful Doherty’s presence in this video seems. It’s as if “Under The Tide” is his song more than it is Mayberry’s or (CHVRCHES member) Iain Cook’s, marking the single and its accompanying video as noteworthy, though catchy and fun, anomalies in CHVRCHES’ discography.