When I spoke with Martin Phillipps from The Chills for my book On Song it was to discuss the song Pink Frost. Phillipps acknowledged that this was the song that would outlast him, the one that would be remembered. He mentioned cover versions of the song – just one way that he knew the tune had meant something; the fact that other people had picked up on, felt they could interpret it.
In my mind it was obvious to feature Pink Frost, to focus on it – a phenomenal song, quite otherworldly, an epiphany whipped into song-shape, a mini revelation. But there are, of course, other great Chills songs.
Heavenly Pop Hit is an obvious contender for a great Chills song – or the great Chills song, so too is I Love My Leather Jacket and I’ve always loved the “comeback” hit, Come Home. Then there’s Doledrums – wow!
One of my favourite compilations from a Kiwi artist is Heavenly Pop Hits – The Best Of The Chills (with the Ice Picks bonus disc/EP). Fabulous. A great driving album, a great summer-holiday album; a great – it has to be said – drinking album, thinking back to university daze. Lots of great (and some hazy) memories of that album on high rotate.
So many great Chills songs in fact. Well, certainly several. But still Pink Frost was the one I wanted to write about; the one that means the most to me. And it was nice to hear Phillips’ thoughts on it, also simply to have him agree regarding the song’s importance. In that sense he was happy to be defined by that beguiling, moody, strange, evocative and powerful song. A nightmare dreamscape shaped by the falling, tumbling drums and the snippy quirk of the opening riff.
Whenever I listen to Submarine Bells particularly – and also, for that matter, the Sunburnt album (which I really like) I think about how much fun Chills songs are to cover. I’ve played a few in my time. And one of the very first covers I learned was a version of I Love My Leather Jacket.
I was 16 and I’d joined a band, via a newspaper ad. Everyone else in the band was in their late 20s. I learned a lot of great songs from that band – as in learned about the songs while learning to play them. I was introduced to some amazing music. The Chills and Hoodoo Gurus were among the bands I first heard due to answering that newspaper ad.
And so I think back to that now whenever I hear key Chills tracks.
Playing that compilation CD, Heavenly Pop Hits, it always comes with the feeling that perhaps The Chills should have been bigger, could have been better – so many songs that really should have been big hits.
The last few years the band has had “another” second innings; it’s fourth or sixth or 21st
chance…and with a line-up that’s been around longer than any other they’ve released a new live and new studio album, they’ve played great shows around the world – just last year I saw them and it was strangely magical. They have – for a start – so many good songs.
The Chills are embarking on their biggest New Zealand tour in about a quarter century next month – from late April through to mid-May. They’re going all over the country. It should be good. It’ll probably be great. Of course it will – those songs…so many great, great songs…and Anthonie Tonnon in support. Can’t wait.