Pitchfork (Website) - "After three decades of near-misses and dark alleys, Phillipps has finally embraced his role as king of the underdogs. On SILVER BULLETS, he fights back the only way he knows how: with beauty."
Personnel: Martin Phillipps (vocals, guitar, keyboards, percussion); Erica Scally (guitar, violin, piano, percussion, background vocals); James Dickson (12-string guitar, keyboards, bass guitar, percussion, background vocals); Oli Wilson (keyboards, percussion, programming, background vocals); Todd Knudson (drums, percussion, background vocals).
Audio Mixers: Brendan Davies; Martin Phillipps.
Recording information: Albany Street Studios, Dunedin, NZ (06/2014); Karma Sound Studios, Thailand (06/2014); Albany Street Studios, Dunedin, NZ (10/2013); Karma Sound Studios, Thailand (10/2013).
The Chills made a name for themselves in the '80s and '90s as one of the most tuneful and impressive indie rock bands from New Zealand, maybe the whole world. Their leader Martin Phillipps wrote plaintive and beautiful songs, then sung them in an honest voice that resonated deeply. After releasing many timeless singles and a few very good albums, the band fell apart in the early to mid-'90s, seemingly for good. After that, Phillipps spent a long time battling demons, repairing his health, occasionally playing shows, and working his way back to the studio. A new single in 2013, "Molten Gold," marked Phillipps' return in fine fashion. With a new group and a renewed focus, the song harkens back to the band's peak with jangling guitars, rumbling rhythms, and a jaunty tune. Phillipps was in fine voice, and the song could have been one of the highlights on Submarine Bells. "Molten Gold" is featured on the 2015 album Silver Bullets, a comeback that works thanks to Phillipps' keen songwriting skills, his melodic gifts, and the nostalgic- but-not-stuck-in-the-past sound the band gets. Mixing in lots of keyboards, layers of guitar, and the occasional violin, the arrangements are rich without being overstuffed. Anyone hoping for a return to the woolly, rollicking feel of their early records may feel the album is a little slick, but for the Chills in 2015, it's almost better than anyone could have expected sound-wise. As for the songs, Phillipps doesn't let the side down there, either. Whether getting deeply political, like on "America Says Hello" and the ecologically minded "Underwater Wasteland," or strictly personal, the lyrics are understated and ring true. The melodies that wrap around the words are comfortingly warm, and if nothing here is as memorable as "I Love My Leather Jacket" or "Heavenly Pop Hit," that's OK. A few come close -- "Molten Gold" and the sophisticated pop ballad "Warm Waveform," to name two -- but really, Silver Bullets fits together as a whole and doesn't need a pop hit, heavenly or otherwise, to be interesting or worthwhile. It's enough that the Chills are back and just as good as they were when they left off. ~ Tim Sendra