The Chills in Summer at The Button Factory
Semi-legendary New Zealand band The Chills play their first Irish date in over 20 years this week, on the back of a new live album…Brian Kelly of the band So Cow is a fan and is here to tell you why you should be too…
Words: Brian Kelly
This Thursday, New Zealand’s The Chills play Dublin’s Button Factory. You have to see them.
I’m generally wary of any band or artist that I’m told I “have to see” or, even worse, that I “will love”, as the resultant disappointment reflects poorly on the person doing the recommending, and entire friendships have to be reassessed. Very often, they may as well say “This is how little I know you”. So when I say you have to go see The Chills, I absolutely utterly mean it. This is no Youtube clip on your wall. I am not the guy at the house party who won’t shut up about The National. I’m just insisting that you go see The Chills next week, and you should.
Martin Phillipps and the latest, extremely stable, configuration of the band are currently on tour in Europe. A quick fortnight zipping around Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium and The UK. In the middle of this, and quite unexpectedly, there’s an Irish date. Having not played this side of the world since 1996, and Ireland since 1990, this was huge news for a fair amount of people. Phillipps had been intermittently musically active in the 2000s, and there were any amount of faint rumblings about recordings, and shows generally limited to the southern island of New Zealand. For a time, the band were the masters of ‘Watch this space!’ and ‘Exciting news soon!’ social media updates.
That is, until recently.
The now five-piece put a new recording, ‘Molten Gold’, online last year, released to coincide with Phillipps’ 50th birthday. All that The Chills are known and loved for – warm, big sounding guitars, sweeping melodies, a knack for the perfect chord at the right time – was in place. It’s recently been released as a 7″ single with a re-recording of the song they are probably most known for, 1984’s insanely atmospheric ‘Pink Frost’, as the b-side. It was a fairly brave move, considering how perfect that original recording is considered to be, but it worked, new Neu!-esque intro and all.
The prime reason you have to go see The Chills, however, is a back catalogue teeming with proper bona fide pop hits. Songs that either made it to the higher reaches of the charts (see ‘Heavenly Pop Hit’, the finest introduction I can think of to the band) or songs that should have done (see ‘Male Monster From The Id’, This Is The Way, any number of others). There’s a pop craftsmanship at work that rivals good Paul McCartney or good Abba for invention and arrangement, with healthy doses of 60s pop, post punk and psyche thrown in for good measure. A self-released compilation of previously unreleased songs, demos and other oddities, Secret Box, contains enough songs for any other band to base an entire career around. A great career at that.
This run of shows is hugely unexpected, and there’s no guarantee that they’ll return, though an album, their first proper LP since 1996, is expected before the end of the year. It’ll be a showcase of some of the greatest guitar pop music written in the last 30 or so years. I can’t overstate this enough. GO!