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Silver Bullets – The Chills (Fire Records)

One of the absolute delights of 2015 has been ‘Silver Bullets’ the new album from the Chills.

‘Silver Bullets’ is a record that manages to pull off the trick of sounding contemporary whilst still being loaded with familiar Chills hallmarks throughout. The result is an album which is amongst the very best of the year.

After years of inactivity, at least in the northern hemisphere, last year’s tour was a timely reminder of the qualities of Martin Phillips and co. But rather than play a set relying solely on past glories the band had the confidence in their new material to play up to half a dozen new songs alongside the classics. And those tunes promised a lot for this record.

It’s fair to say that the record doesn’t just live up to those expectations, it surpasses them. That’s in part down to the fact that ‘Silver Bullets’ is a record of ambitious scope but also because some of the best tunes on the record didn’t feature on the tour.

Both aspects are illustrated by the album’s centrepiece – the eight minute epic ‘Pyramid/When The Poor Can Reach The Moon’. Essentially two very different songs welded together the genius move here is to recognise that the two distinct halves, the ominous ‘Pyramid’ and the joyous ‘When The Poor …’ gain immeasurably from being paired together.

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If that’s the best example of the record’s adventurousness then further evidence can be found with ‘America Says Hello’, the rockiest tune on the record.

The band’s gentler side is also on display on the brief wordless opening track (‘Father Time’) which leads into the sublime ‘Warm Waveforms’ the guitars in which suggests a Celtic lullaby.

‘Aurora Corona’ is an exhilarating rush of Chills guitar pop and would be the obvious single on the record whilst the most recent single ‘Molten Gold’ benefits from its slightly more muscular mix on the album. If I was looking to convince someone of the joys of the Chills, then these are two of the first tunes I’d turn to.

The only real misstep is penultimate song ‘Tomboy’ with its potential undermined by the seemingly endless repetition of the title as its chorus (the word’s used more than 50 times – and that’s not counting the kids’ chorus).

The musical mood may (largely) be positive but there’s an anger underpinning many of the lyrics with Phillips venting on the environment (‘Underwater Wasteland’ and ‘Aurora Corona’), Western Imperialism (‘America Says Hello’) and inequality (‘Pyramid/When The Poor Can Reach The Moon’). The lyrics of vignette ‘Liquid Situation’ tell a similar, pessimistic, story – ‘It’s a liquid situation/Intolerance precipitates our imminent demise’.

It’s astonishing in many ways that this record exists at all but no-one can surely have predicted just how impressive ‘Silver Bullets’ would be. Truly special.

Here’s one half of the LP’s centrepiece:

 

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