Alan McGee -Guardian UK Blog on The Chills
Alan McGee, founder of Creation records, signed Oasis and managed the Libertines, posted this blog 5 August.
The Chills: ready for a comeback?
This group were influenced by punk rock experienced through the isolated filter of living in New Zealand
August 5, 2008 8:00 AM
I didn't get into the Chills until long after I released Kaleidoscope World on Creation in 1985. That record, and in particular the song Pink Frost, keep giving and grow in iconic status as each year passes, sounding ever fresher than fresh and more relevant.
The Chills come from the "Dunedin Sound" scene of the early 1980s - a group of musicians influenced by punk rock but experienced through the isolated filter of living in New Zealand. Greame Downes of the Clean once told an interviewer that it took almost two years after Ian Curtis' death for the first Joy Division album to appear in New Zealand. The pop isolation in Dunedin intrigued; it was unique, a small scene not yet under the microscope of trends, and yet the Chills invented their own trends to reinvent pop music during the 80s.
My involvement with the band began after their arrival in London to record their debut Brave New Words. During that trip we had agreed to release the aforementioned compilation of singles and I was amazed at the consistency of Kaleidscope World, considering Chills leader Martin Phillips would change the lineup of the band more times than Mark E Smith would reincarnate the Fall. It spoke to his strengths that he could develop and maintain their sound at the same time.
The record succeeded creatively: it had elements of the Postcard Sound that I was into, and captured the compulsive dark edge of Dylanesque allusive wordplay contrasted with the Beach Boys sound that made it so compelling. Though Kaleidoscope World was a compilation of Flying Nun material and not their "proper first album", many thought differently. The reviews tagged Martin Phillips as the Brian Wilson of the post-punk world - a tag that sort of stuck. It was in 1991 that I realised how utterly classic and timeless the Chills are, especially Pink Frost. With its allusions to murder, it plays like a haunting, chiming, loping update of the Louvin Brothers' murder ballad Knoxville Girl.
People often ask me about Creation acts and for the past two years the Chills have come up a lot in conversation. I have been hearing their influence more and more: the Shins' new wave take on Brian Wilson definitely has that Chills sound, while Panda Bear and I'm From Barcelona have discussed their influence in interviews. Swedish pop has taken to the Chills sound almost religiously too. Peter John and Bjorn recorded The Chills off their Writer's Block album in tribute, some say, to the magical pop band from New Zealand.
After Kaleidoscope World, the Chills released two more pop classics, Brave New World and Submarine Bells. The latter contained their almost-hit, the aptly named Heavenly Pop Hit. All was looking good but by the time of 1992's Soft Bomb the Chills imploded on a US tour and split up. Phillips reconvened the band once more in 1996. Then they were put on hold for almost 10 years, after which they released Stand By in 2004. There are even reports of new Phillips material in the works. Do I think the Chills have another heavenly pop hit in them? Without a doubt.
The Guardian UK blog can be viewed here More articles