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This weekend I’ll mostly be listening to… the Chills January 10, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to..., Uncategorized.

Somehow this seems suitable for the week that’s in it.

Heavenly Pop Hit. Surely you must have heard that song? Eco-friendly. 1990 or thereabouts. Taken from the album Submarine Bells. No? Really? Well here it is.

Not sure about that multi-coloured shirt thing that’s going on there Martin, but otherwise, pretty good.

Martin Phillipps, for it was he, and his merry troupe, and troupe it was because membership of New Zealand post punk/new wave/psychedelic group The Chills was – for most – a short-lived affair, spent much of the 1980s and a bit of the 1990s producing some quite gorgeous (as Steve Jobs might say) alternative music. Melodic, a mixture of the jangly psychedelic tinged guitar rock of the 1960s with a darker harder edge drawn from proto-punk. So think the Velvet Underground crossed with the Byrds, but gloomier… sometimes. And a crucial element to their sound were the faux 60’s keyboards.

As ever I’m not sure how I encountered them, I had their earlier collection of singles on vinyl sometime in the late 1980s, but I purchased Submarine Bells in London in the early 1990s, probably second hand in Reckless Records off Wardour Street. I seem to remember hearing recently that Reckless has gone from there which is a terrible pity. At one point my record/CD collection absolutely depended on second hand records, and later CDs, from there. That said I tended to prefer Sister Ray further down the Street which had a more pointedly indie/dance/psychedelic thing going on, and even now would drop in there whenever I’m in London.

Anyhow, the Chills. Purveyors of the Dunedin sound along with the entertainingly daft The Clean, The Bats, the Verlaines, Straitjacket Fits and others, many many others (and often the membership of these groups overlapped). The Chills never did hugely well commercially, which was both a good and a bad thing. Good, perhaps, in that it maintained a certain authenticity to their music, bad in that they never had the exposure they deserved. They went to London in the late 1980s. Didn’t do much better. But came up with gems like this:

Or the all too accurate Doledrums with a closing verse that went:

In the doledrums

On the dole

But the benefits arrive and life goes on

The benefits arrive and life goes on

The benefits arrive and life goes on and on and on… (etc)

I’ve always been a bit of a sucker for Australian bands such as the Church, the Crystal Set, The Go-Betweens and suchlike, so their Antipodean colleagues, albeit from islands well to the east in the Pacific wasn’t such a stretch.

I had a copy of their later Soft Bomb, but it was robbed out of the house I rented at the time during the 1990s and I never got around to replacing it. Also stolen was a masterful Best of collection which stretched across two CDs really captured the essence of the band. I see that it is now only available on a single disc which completely truncates their output.

There was a fragility to the sound… take Pink Frost about a dream he had (although sheesh, the video… Philipps looks like me and my friends did in 1978 at the age of fourteen, all tucked in tight jumpers, hands by our sides pumped up on Dirty Harry movies and sugary sweets. Not cool).

Apparently they’re gigging again and making the odd record here and there. Let’s hope they’re as odd as they ever were.

I’ll leave you with I Love My Leather Jacket…


1. Wednesday - January 11, 2009

Much as I love Flying Nun in general, the Chills have never been one of my favourites. I still own a lot of their stuff but they wouldn’t be the first I’d listen to. Do you want a copy of Soft Bomb?


2. WorldbyStorm - January 11, 2009

Yes I do! Very much appreciated. I really liked about half that album, the other half I could take or leave. Do you have/want any of the earlier stuff? RE other Flying Nun stuff, I’ve got The Clean and a Bats Album, you wouldn’t happen to have any other interesting material?


3. Wednesday - January 12, 2009

I’ll do a full inventory when I get a chance 🙂


4. This weekend I’ll mostly be listening to… Crystal Stilts. « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - April 18, 2009

[…] argued that they have a marriage between the Chillsand Ian Curtis. Perhaps. […]


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