Reviewed by: Bryan Culver
Martin Phillips doesn’t sound like a man that’s been on the brink of hell. He sounds fresh and energetic. He’s endured hardships, sure. Self-destructive episodes that are difficult to fathom, check. But Phillips cleans up well, albeit, even if it takes a little while to warm back up. For the first time in nearly two decades, New Zealand’s The Chills, an indelible little piece of Jangle-rock history, have returned with a cohesive, razor-edge focused post-punk record, Silver Bullets.
On Silver Bullets Phillips give us a pallet cleanser. Post-Punk in it’s most archetypal form. Elemental. You can hear why his sound as The Chills has been so pervasive over the years. The jangly guitars, an ever-present signature Phillips is credited with putting on the indie road map, are given a sleek makeover. The minimally-clean bass lines sound like they were sampled from a Joy Division record, but I assure you they’re the real thing. The drums are pouncey, there to keep pace, but not deviate from their assigned role. Minimalistic. Atmospheric. Just what you’d come to expect from the veteran. Thematically, Phillips lyrical content is darkly contemplative and political, but nothing revolutionary.
Silver Bullets is a true to the core post-punk record. I’m not certain this record could be classified as ‘nostalgic’. Truth be told, The Chills wrote the script that exposed this style of post-punk to a wider international audience back in the late 1980s as part of the “Dunedin Sound”, so-called for their association with legendary Flying Nun Records headquartered in the namesake university city in Southern New Zealand. The Chills are credited as being major influences on such era-defining indie rock luminaries as REM and Stephen Malkmus of Pavement. I would have assumed it went the other way around.
Overall this record didn’t disappoint and if you’re into current post-punk bands like Ought, Protomartyr, or even the cross-over indie starlet Courtney Barnett, it’s worth your while to check out Silver Bullets.