Saturday, January 28, 2017

Silver Bullets (2015)

My association with the Chills, a New Zealand band headed by Martin Phillips since the '80s, is mainly limited to two albums from the early '90s, Submarine Bells and Soft Bomb (one wonders what the recurring SB initials are about ... other Chills releases include Sunburnt, Somewhere Beautiful, Sketch Book, Secret Box, and Stand By). Submarine Bells and Soft Bomb are not only great albums but also filled with luminous pop songs of such certain purity they can be broken off, in mix tapes and such, and lived with individually, for years in some cases (their greatest hit by my lights is still the deeply insular "Song for Randy Newman, Etc.," a kind of theme song for living). Phillips is the only constant across the years of the Chills and he has always been the chief songwriter. Sometimes I suspect the band name has something to do with the similarity with his last name. All songs on Silver Bullets are by him, as usual, and along with many other of these recent surprise returns (David Bowie and the Sonics come to mind right away, and even the Rolling Stones might be getting in on it now), the consistent high quality is the most pleasant part of the surprise. Phillips was still up to moderate rock 'n' roll heroics in Submarine Bells—he's the guitar player, after all—but he was already tending toward primacies of mood and atmosphere. Soft Bomb was more of that and Silver Bullets, even across a gap of over 20 years, is even more. The songs on Silver Bullets shimmer and glow, throwing up fragments of lyrics that clarify through repetition, yet remain stubbornly enigmatic: "warm waves," "silver bullets," "America says hello," "when the poor can reach the moon," "aurora corona," "tomboy," "molten gold." The song about the poor and the moon runs over eight minutes, which anyone would have to call long, with a kind of prog structure that shifts from theme to theme. Most of the songs are a little long (or short) for pure pop music, in other words, but then that's not exactly what Phillips is doing any more. This is probably for fans only, but all fans will want to hear it.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed this but must say by the time I let it go my favorite song was the short instrumental, "Liquid Situation."