Release Date: Nov 4, 2014
Record label: Fire Records
Genre(s): New Zealand Rock, College Rock
Recording a radio session for John Peel was a feather in the cap for many an artist or band, and to be invited back more than once was one of the greatest stamps of approval possible from the tastemaking radio DJ. The Chills, the New Zealand pop band led by Martin Phillipps, were one of the lucky ones, recording three sessions for Peel during the ‘80s. Like the many Peel Session collections that have come before it, this disc provides an interesting glimpse into how The Chills operated, with songs getting stripped down or beefed up for live performance, as well as early versions of tunes that had yet to be recorded.
One of a handful of game-changing indie pop bands from the small New Zealand town of Dunedin, the Chills made some of the most lasting independent rock of their day, their work in the '80s paving the way for the '90s alternative rock movement and generations of indie music that followed. The band was a vital contributor to the scene of underground sounds that British disc jockey John Peel made his life's ambition of taking to the masses, and The BBC Sessions collects songs from three studio visits the Chills made to the BBC to record Peel sessions between 1985 and 1988. Where the band's studio albums were often limited by the high costs of recording studios, the fidelity and clarity of these radio sessions is at times superior, though a decidedly live feeling flows through the tunes, which were mostly put to tape live in the studio.
Like many of the bands John Peel uncovered, The Chills hadn’t released an album the first time the DJ invited them to play a session in 1985. The Dunedin five-piece breezed through ‘Rolling Moon’, their 1982 debut single released on iconic New Zealand label Flying Nun. Subsequently, the band developed a Fall-like predilection for personnel changes, with founder and frontman Martin Phillipps the axis.
This New Zealand indie band, one of the late 1980s standouts on the estimable Flying Nun label, arrived in London for three sessions with John Peel. Over three years, the results commemorate the increasing sophistication of the Chills’ music, captured live in studio, each set taking a day. The band chose its selections well, revealing a knack for melody and smart content.
New Zealand’s The Chills – essentially Martin Phillipps with a huge revolving cast of ancillary members – have been making quirky power-poppy songs since their inception in 1980. They’ve only managed to release four albums in that time, but they also recorded three sessions with the late John Peel. Gathered here and available commercially for the very first time, these 12 songs (four from each session) offer an alternative glimpse into the discography of this somewhat idiosyncratic band over the course of three years, between the first session, in November 1985, and the last, in 1988.
Although we’re still waiting for a new studio LP and a desperately-needed album catalogue overhaul, 2014 has nevertheless been a great year for The Chills’ incremental comeback campaign. With rapturously received live shows, the majestic Molten Gold 7” and a reissue of 2004’s Stand By EP, Martin Phillipps’ breadcrumb trail return from the wilderness – which begun with 2013’s Somewhere Beautiful live LP – has both sated and heightened hunger for the band’s crafted Kiwi pop confections. Adding to this laterally-routed reawakening activity Fire Records now closes the year by excavating and beautifully-packaging-up three vintage 1980s John Peel Sessions for the faithful and the newly-converted alike.