Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Chills - Silver Bullets

The Chills command a certain amount of attention in indie rock circles just by dint of their importance to the emerging New Zealand guitar pop scene in the '80s, the transcendence of their better songs, and the human drama of their changing lineups and the personal travails of frontman and lone constant member, Martin Phillipps.  And if that helps bring music fans to Silver Bullets, their first album of new music in 19 years, then that is a fine result.  Because the album should be attracting attention for what it is; and that is classic Chills guitar pop.  Infectious guitar lines, accented by keys, soaring over a sturdy rhythm section and with the plenitude of hooks that Phillipps seems to craft as well as anyone in the business.  Moreover, the listener finds Phillipps in fine voice, with the focus on nuance and passion rather than range and volume, he is as good as he ever was.

Silver Bullets begins with a dramatic intro, and then launches into the delicate and dramatic "Warm Waveform", the rousing "Silver Bullets", and the pensive "Underwater Wasteland".  All three are album highlights and, in my view, compare favorably with the band's work in the '80s and early '90s.  "America Says Hello" delivers political observations in a classic Chills wrapper, while "Liquid Situation" is a too-short slice of early '80s Dunedin pop-punk.  "Pyramid/When the Poor Can Reach the Moon" wears a dream-pop mantle for the beginning, then transitions into an experimental rock tune, and then becomes an upbeat pop song.  Track 8 is the pacy "Aurora Corona", which to my ears is one of the best three songs on the album, and may deserve release as a single, and the following "I Can't Help You" is only slightly behind it.  "Tomboy" provides a more serious note before the album ends with the triumphant "Molten Gold".

This album reaffirms Phillipps' knack for marrying the scrappy South Island New Zealand guitar sound with soaring pop sensibilities, crafting  pop gems that feel memorable and timeless.  In terms of consistency and quality, this is among the best set of songs in The Chills' discography.

The current version of The Chills consists of Martin Phillipps, James Kickson, Todd Knudson, Erica Scally, and Oli Wilson.  Silver Bullets is out now via Fire Records.

Fire Records' page for Silver Bullets
Bandcamp for Silver Bullets

1 comment:

Unknown said...

The version of Molten Gold posted here is the two year old version of the song, not the new one included on the album.