The Chills’ ever-present songwriter Martin Phillipps has a check list.
1. Establish band as much-loved New Zealand legends. Check.
2. Release the greatest summer single ever in the shape of ‘Heavenly Pop Hit’. Check.
3. Go on lengthy 19-year sabbatical out of the public eye. Check.
4. Return to recording and cock a weary eye at politics, the environment and other social issues with an infectious earworm in mind. Check.
5. Sonically weld your “spindly guitar sound” and psyche roots to a new found angst about, well, just about everything on a brand new “grown up” opus called ‘Snow Bound’. Check.
The latest postcard from The Chills’ epic journey is an album about “consolidation, re-grouping, acceptance and mortality,” claims the chief Chill. “Hopefully a kind of Carole King ‘Tapestry’ for ageing punks.”
Wow! Are rock bands allowed to grow old gracefully and assess the world’s and their shortcomings in the process? Is it possible to swerve the obvious and make something that’s bittersweet in tone but harmonious on the ear? Of course it is.
On ‘Snow Bound’ lost heroes are lamented, relationships are re-evaluated, atonement is sought, mortality is mulled over and fake news is undercut. It’s serious stuff, the thoughts of a dysfunctional 50-something wrestling with maturity and discovering that their post-punk DIY beliefs still have a real voice that resonates between the fans of their early years and which can now pass down to the next generation.
Casting our minds back, we can recall that The Guardian mused, “They sound almost like the musical embodiment of autumn,” when confronted with ‘Silver Bullets’. Three years on, ‘Snow Bound’ nestles heartily in its own winter of discontent. And all this with a humalong melodic verve, Phillipps’ gift for the tempered dalliance of verse and chorus and those gorgeous euphoric organ fills. Let the soul-searching commence…