The Chills - Snow Bound

by Ljubinko Zivkovic Rating:10 Release Date:2018-09-14
The Chills - Snow Bound
The Chills - Snow Bound

New Zealand’s The Chills and Martin Phillipps, their omnipresent leader, composer, and lead singer are a specific phenomenon in modern rock. No matter the fact that every critic and fan of chiming guitar-pop name check them all the time as one of the best in the genre, their albums proper, tend to get mixed reviews. The band’s only release that doesn’t seem to be questioned is Kaleidoscope World, actually a collection of their earliest singles and EP’s. But then, at some point, those mixed reviews, turn into the fact that any and all of The Chills albums end up on someone’s all-time favorite lists.

It is actually also a fact that Phillipps and The Chills never came with an album that was below excellent, and that includes Brave Words, their first album proper with which the band themselves had complaints about Mayo Thompson’s production or Soft Bomb often maligned by critics. So here come Martin and The Chills again with Snow Bound their latest, and all those points of excellence are shown and proven again.

You see, there was always a left-field element present in The Chills seemingly simple jangle-pop - rhythmic and melodic changes that didn’t seem right but were actually more or less perfect, immaculate playing and Martin’s always piercingly open and penetrating lyrics. You can try more or less anything for proof - from the classic “Pink Frost”, through devastating “The Male Monster from the Id”, to anything on this album.

Snow Bound comes only three years after Silver Bullets, a short time considering it took Phillipps and the band 19 years to come with a studio album after Sunburnt from 1996. The first thing that strikes you with any of the 10 songs here is that you are immediately aware of the fact that you are listening to The Chills - the instrumentation, the vocals, layered lyrics they sound exactly as they are composed and played by the band that started way back in the early Eighties.

The moment “Bad Sugar” opens the album and “In Memory” closes it, you come to another realization which makes you understand the reason The Chills are on all those ‘all-time’ lists - as it did in the beginning, thirty or so years on, their sound still sounds fresh and relevant. But time doesn’t stop, and on Snow Bound Phillipps and the band have added some new melodic twists and turns to their sound that represent an extra layer of complexity in their sound. That layer doesn’t distract, but actually complements the ability of their songs to sound so listenable and enjoyable and still make you think at the same time.

The year is heading for its final quarter and Snow Bound will be almost impossible to push off ‘best of the year’ lists.

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