Saturday, January 28, 2017
"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.