23 Sep 2018
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The Chills - LP Review: Snow Bound

13 Sep 2018 // A review by Darryl Baser

There's nothing like a little pressure to spur a genius to greatness. Snow Bound could just be the greatest Chills LP yet.

Frontman and one of Dunedin's favourite sons Martin Phillipps was effectively given a death sentence about two years ago; well, to veer away from hyperbole, his doctor told him "if you don't stop drinking you'll have 6 months to live." 24 months later Snow Bound comes out, and The Chills are on tour.

Phillipps has always been a good pop songwriter, but right from the opening he's on top form. Bad Sugar opens the LP in a joyous way, featuring the lyric: "even bad sugar makes bitter taste sweet".

Song two, Time To Atone, could be harking back to his upbringing as a minister's son. Musically it begins uneasily, but then there's a familiar Phillipps phrase, a hook into the chorus, before he sings, "woke up it was time to atone".

Track four, Scarred, really stands out with Phillipps singing of his own frailty, giving a personal touch to the song.

The theme continues with Complex, "I'm not the man you think I am I'm a complex piece of the plan". It’s hard to determine what other tracks are singles on this LP, but it is no surprise that Complex is the first one. It’s a great song that at a half-educated guess, is about a man looking back on life.

With many albums it often becomes rather obvious to tell album track (filler) from standalone singles, but not in this case; on Snow Bound every song could be a single.

The opening of Deep Belief reminds me of the Chills song Come Home, as it has a familiar turn of phrase.

Lyrically, Lord Of All I Survey sounds like Phillipps is at home while the one he loves is off on an adventure… "but reaching for something will just push it further away"…there’s the familiar sense of yearning. "You’re the best thing that happened to me, but while I was dreaming you just slipped away”, is another stand-out lyric.

Musically, this line up of The Chills has been the most stable and it really shows in the recordings. The performances are tight, and the arrangements slick, suiting the album’s narrative. It sounds like 1980's Chills recorded very well with the most modern technology.

The title track Snow Bound chugs along and is a perfect representation of an 80's Chills sound in a modern context, from the high gain mid-boosted rhythm guitar to the sweeping keyboards, along with the fact it’s the market standard pop length at exactly 3 minutes.

Eazy Peazy is the penultimate track of the 10-song album, and features layers of jangling guitars, and a beautiful organ sound to close the song out.

In Harmony wraps Snow Bound up, potentially autobiographical: "we’re still, still, still believing in harmony". It’s an up-tempo happy way to finish the album, with a singalong chorus to fade, that makes the listener want to start listening again. Which this reviewer did, several times.

Snow Bound is a masterclass in song writing and capturing fresh songs well.


Review written by Darryl Baser

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )
 

About The Chills

The Chills story is as much the story of Martin Phillipps. The group was dogged by an ever changing line up, with Phillipps being the only permanent member. At times it seemed that the end of The Chills had finally arrived but Phillipps' strong motivation and ambition for success wouldn't allow this. The Chills achieved the success they deserved and were one of the top bands to emerge from New Zealand.

It all began in late 1978 when Martin Phillipps was the crisp age of 15. Inspired by the punk movement, including local band The Enemy, he teamed up with Jeff Batts (vocals) and Craig Easton (guitar) one weekend and began to make noise.

Soon after Paul Baird (drums) and Gaynor Propsting (bass) joined up and The Same was formed. Phillipps played guitar and following the departure of Batts took over as the principal songwriter and vocalist. Their few gigs included support for Toy Love and a Telethon '79 appearance, and it was quickly becoming obvious that Phillipps possessed a rare talent with a great sense of melody.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for The Chills

Releases

Snow Bound
Year: 2018
Type: Album
Silver Bullets
Year: 2015
Type: Album
Somewhere Beautiful
Year: 2014
Type: Album
Stand By
Year: 2004
Type: EP
Sunburnt
Year: 1996
Type: Album
Heavenly Pop Hits
Year: 1994
Type: Album
Soft Bomb
Year: 1992
Type: Album
Submarine Bells
Year: 1990
Type: Album
Brave Words
Year: 1987
Type: Album
Kaleidoscope World
Year: 1985
Type: Album

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