Well, here’s some fantastic news for New Zealand indie music fans. Dunedin legends The Chills are back after almost two decades with a new album. Silver Bullets, their first full-length studio release since 1996’s Sunburnt, is due out on October 30 on Fire Records. Yes, those Kiwis certainly take their time, but judging from the first two singles released to bloggers, “America Says Hello” and “Warm Waveform,” it has been worth the wait. In “America,” the dark and layered melodic magic and classic Chills sound is still there, with some nicely acerbic social commentary that takes direct aim at misguided U.S. policies and social breakdown, and the world’s quick forgiveness of past transgressions.
“But you grapple with fear as you stare at the sight
For they’re cold uncaring, moving, scaring — inscrutable
For it’s a small world after all — a lonely little blue and white ball
And the universe yawns at our plans — as another empire expands…
But then America says hello — and the world says welcome home
For the everyday people aren’t free — and they know they’re never going to be
With the powerful keeping them hushed — as the tyrants get noisy ones crushed
So they turn a deaf ear to the prophets of gloom
For there’s funding galore from the profits of doom
First a rocket attack then a property boom”
– America Says Hello
“Warm Waveform” brings a softer touch for a dreamy enveloping love song. Smoothly layered melodic bass lines and chiming guitars blend with steady, shuffling percussion and gently sung vocals to create a pretty, shimmering effect as it bounces along pleasantly and sensuously.
“In the blink of the night, you thawed my winter with your dawn.” – Warm Waveform
It is difficult to overstate the importance The Chills have had on the indie music scene in their native New Zealand and beyond. To trace the band’s roots, influences, members through the years and bands they’ve performed with is to take a magical journey through the rich history of New Zealand indie pop in the 1980s and 1990s. Toy Love, The Clean, Sneaky Feelings and The Verlaines are all brethren with their own legendary stories and esteemed places in music history. Tracing all the talented musicians who have been part of The Chills’ history takes a fancy chart on Wikipedia, with Martin Phillipps being the sole original member. There were two break-ups and two resurrections. In 2013, they signed with Fire and Far South and released Somewhere Beautiful, which was a live album of rare recordings from a New Year’s Eve party. They then released the Molten Gold single, Stand By (2014 Tour) and The BBC Sessions. “Molten Gold” appears on the new album.
And with that, we’re back in the present. Silver Bullets was recorded at Albany Street Studios in Dunedin, with James Dickson, Todd Knudson, Erica Stichbury, and Oli Wilson joining Phillipps. After many years of infrequent shows just in New Zealand and Australia, The Chills performed at sold-out shows in the U.K. last year. A Pitchfork article back in July indicated a full tour being planned for next year, with Phillips scheduled to play solo shows later this year.
Pre-order Silver Bullets on CD or vinyl from Amazon or iTunes below. And stay closely tuned to their Facebook page for tour dates! I’m assuming their official site will be updated. Eventually. Gotta love those Kiwis.