The Chills Peel Sessions
As I get older, I find I have less and less time for 'nice' indie pop. In fact at one point I made something of a name for myself by aiming broadsides at the effete, the dull and the pointless, as epitomised by some of the genre.
But I still have lots and lots of time for The Chills...
Their heavenly pop thrill was part of the fabled 'Dunedin sound', centred around a small university town in New Zealand and local label Flying Nun. It always had a sparkle to it, a soft centre masking powerful lyrics entwined in ethereal, slightly unsettling, left field melodies. From the other side of the world their songs called like rare, exotic wines, intoxicating and addictive and somehow beautifully melancholic. They produced a string of should have been and nearly were hits in the 80s and 90s, before substance abuse and disillusion and remoteness from the rest of the pop world saw the band plummet into near oblivion.
And with renewed interest in the band's future (with a live album from 2011 just out and new tracks being released) comes an interest in the band's past.
How well is this past displayed on these Peel recordings! Featuring shifting line ups from 3 different sessions, these tracks demonstrate the quality of the song writing, the energy of the performances and the subtle uniqueness of the sound. The stripped down 'live' performances contain an energy and directness perhaps lacking on the records, and it is particularly interesting to hear here, for the first time, early takes of 3 tracks which would later appear on début album 'Submarine Bells'.
You may see that I am finding it very difficult to write about The Chills, to tell you why I love their ethereal, magical, twisted, lemon sherbet pop with a bitter centre. Was it forged by distance from the mainstream, by enforced access to relatively primitive recording techniques, by being surrounded by hills and oceans and space and different histories; or was it down to the genius Martin Phillips possesses in turning the loves and tragic losses of life into something memorable, shimmering, beautiful, durable?
So yes, while I may get fed up with indie pop, but with this Heavenly Pop Hit? Never.
I'm not in love with anyone, but I've lots of time for you...