The ChillsNew Zealand Cult Heroes
Bittersweet, kaleidoscopic Kiwi-pop tunes.
Although The Chills have existed for the better part of three decades, singer-songwriter Martin Phillipps has always been the sole constant member: the liner notes of singles compilation Kaleidoscope World list 11 different lineups active between 1980 and 1988, including former and future members of The Clean, The Verlaines, Stereolab and Luna. A gifted songwriter with a knack for melodies that take unexpected left turns, Phillipps has a decided lyrical affinity for the dark side; many of his most beloved songs, including cult favorite early singles "Pink Frost" and "I Love My Leather Jacket," are explicitly about death and mourning. But that gloom is crucially counterbalanced by an unwillingness to mope and an indefatigable optimism best heard in the glorious "Heavenly Pop Hit," the Chills' signature song and perhaps the finest three and a half minutes of the entire New Zealand indiepop scene. The Chills were at their highest international profile in the late '80s, when increasing buzz over six years' worth of singles crested with the release of debut LP Brave Words and its career high point follow-up Submarine Bells. Health problems related to Phillipps' drug addiction hampered the Chills in the 1990s; a healthier, post-rehab Phillipps rebounded with 2004's Stand By.