Release Date: Oct 15, 2013
Record label: Fire
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, New Zealand Rock, College Rock
For a band who haven’t released any new material since 2004 (the apparently 'stopgap' EP Stand By) and haven’t issued a full length album proper since 1996, a triple vinyl recorded live at a private New Year’s party and issued in collaboration with artist Shane Cotton may seem a slightly esoteric way to reintroduce New Zealand’s finest pop band to the world. Yet the erratic prince of the Dunedin sound, Martin Phillips, has never been one for ease of travel when it’s come to The Chills' scattershot career. Comparable only to The Fall in terms of personnel turnover and with a tendency to allow drug issues to trip up musical talent, his, and therefore The Chills’ story is one of early tragedy (in the form of the death of their original drummer Martyn Bull in ’83), homeland successes, international cultdom and, as Phillips so brilliantly depicted on Soft Bomb’s ‘Song For Randy Newman Etc.
One of the key bands of the Dunedin Sound of 20-plus years ago, the Chills have put together nearly as many lineups as they have years (using “they” loosely, given that the group’s largely been a project orbiting around Martin Phillips rather than any sort of consistent act). The Chills have the same reception history as their peers: great critical reception, cult following, no true international success. They’re one of the bands that, at minimum, should make you go through a New Zealand phase, raving about bands from cities you vaguely know exist and blowing through cash tracking down albums that haven’t made their way to Spotify yet.
Led by bandleader/guitarist/songwriter/sole constant member Martin Phillipps, the mercurial New Zealand indie pop group the Chills has soldiered sporadically through more than three decades, resurfacing seemingly at random with new music, a one-off performance, or a brand-new lineup performing the group's classic Flying Nun material. Somewhere Beautiful is a perfect expression of the Chills' somewhat touch-and-go existence. A lengthy live recording captured at a private New Year's Eve party as 2011 turned into 2012, Somewhere Beautiful is a remarkably well-recorded document of the Chills running through 20 songs from their entire catalog, and materialized a few months after the release of their 2013 digital-only track "Molten Gold," the first song under the Chills name since 2004's mini-album Stand By.
2013 is yet another year of nostalgia and retrospection; endless revisits to bygone sounds of yore – box sets, reissues, comebacks and re-releases from the elusive and prolific- forgotten or extant. This is all very appropriately timed, then – having been an indelible presence in independent music since 1980, influential New Zealand band The Chills recently announced news of their first full-length since 1996’s Sunburnt to cement the partnership between Fire Records and label Far South, along with Somewhere Beautiful; a 20-song set evincing their latest live incarnation. Pertinently, their native Flying Nun records announced a partnership with Brooklyn label Captured Tracks earlier this year to reissue their prestigious back catalogue, chronicling the label’s zenith and rekindling our affinity for its intrinsic “Dunedin Sound”, a primitive pop approach of which The Chills were early proponents.
Although they’ve achieved close to legendary stature in their native New Zealand, The Chills have never garnered anywhere near the kind of fame that their countrymen Crowded House enjoyed here in the U.S. Constant changes in the line-up may be possibly to blame; despite more than 20 years of plying their trade, the band’s leader Martin Phillipps remains the only constant. And yet, their generally accessible style should have made more of an impact, especially given the favorable reaction Americans have had to most music brewed Down Under.