The Chills - Kaleidoscope World - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Chills - Kaleidoscope World

by Rob Taylor Rating:9 Release Date:2016-08-20
The re-issue market is rampant, so revisionism comes cheap these days. The Chills have definitely earned their status over time as one of the southern hemisphere’s foremost indie-pop groups. Their reputation globally wasn’t always so solidified. In fact, the influence of the Flying Nun Records enterprise was more insidious than insurgent. The music was slow in travelling across the Tasman Sea to Australia, let alone the northern hemisphere, and this was well after the kiwis had already recognised and celebrated the genius of the label’s melodious but fractious indie-pop.
 
One of the best books I’ve read about modern pop was Bob Stanley’s ‘The Story of Modern Pop’. Reference to The Chills ? Zip. Reference to Flying Nun Records ? Zip. Reference to New Zealand or Australia at all ? Well, point made.
 
Listening to this re-issue of Kaleidoscope World, expanded over time to 24 tracks from 1989’s original 8 tracks, is like condensing C86 down to the tracks that really count. Except that, where there are shared characteristics in the jangly guitars and [sometimes] beguiling melodies from that period in 1986, at the heart of the music of Martin Phillips lay a punk sensibility, a questing for the experimental reaches of pop. 
 
Listening to ‘Pink Frost’ again is like finally being awoken to the bridge that existed between Joy Division and The Smiths. ‘This Is The Way’ a look back at 1960s psych and garage pop, and ‘Don’t Even Know Her Name’ an indie hoedown, moving sharply and incisively between tuneless strings and melodious chorus. The whirling keyboard chords and strutting drums of ‘I Love My Leather Jacket’ play a devilish party tune beneath what could have been a straightforward pop song, were it not for those musical subtleties that turn a standard into something special. 
 
Martin Phillips is a restless songwriter, and Kaleidoscope World showcases this brilliantly, the band forever shifting away from the routineness of a fixed pop template, aided not only by Phillips’s brilliant and concise songwriting, but an obstinate desire to evolve. I keep reading that Martin Phillips never recovered the personal issues of decades past, but for me, last year's ‘Silver Bullets’ was a clear rebuttal of those assertions.  
 
The six extra tracks are on the re-issue are fantastic, particularly the two live tracks,  highlighting how invigorated Martin Phillips was in front of an adoring crowd. Along with 2013’s Somewhere Beautiful, an essential purchase.

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