The Chills – Kaleidoscope World (Flying Nun Records reissue)

Just re-released on Flying Nun, ’Kaleidoscope World’ is the Chills album that just keeps expanding.

Originally an 8 track compilation of some of the best of their earliest releases ‘Kaleidoscope World’  more than doubled in length for the first CD version with an additional 9 tracks drawing together everything else from those releases.

At which point you might have imagined that the early Chills catalogue had been comprehensively mined. Yet this version improbably proves that not to be the case as it adds another half a dozen worthy cuts.

We’ll come to those additions shortly but it’s worth reflecting on what makes this an important record.

‘Kaleidoscope World’ was never the Chills debut LP, that honour is reserved for ‘Brave Words’, but it undeniably contains a significant number of key tracks, many of which survive in the live set today.

What really makes ‘Kaleidoscope World’ unique is that the relative isolation of New Zealand in the early to mid 80s. What that means is that this music was less influenced less by what was happening in the wider rock world than the coterie of like minded Dunedin bands such as the Verlaines and the Clean.

Accordingly it’s a record brimming with vitality which showcases Martin Phillipp’s singular musical vision.

The exemplar of this is the eerie, much covered, ‘Pink Frost’ which still sounds like nothing else. The Chills could also be more straightforward – the rocking ‘I Love My Leather Jacket’ is one such tune but it’s upbeat nature conceals the fact that it concerns the tragic early death of drummer Martyn Bull.

But it’s a staggeringly varied set ranging from the experimental ‘Whole Weird World’ through to the throwaway ‘Bee Bah Bee Bah Bee Boe’ via the punk-ish ‘Bite’ (which owes more than a little to the Buzzcocks) and surf (near) instrumental ‘Purple Girl’.

It’s the extra tracks that are the crux of this reissue for me.

Two of the extra tracks are the best known of the additions as ‘The Oncoming Day’ and ‘Dan Destiny and the Silver Dollar’ are prototypes of songs to appear on later LPs. I’m not sure if the version of ‘The Oncoming Day’ is the version of the song that was supposed to be the band’s second single, but it would certainly fit in with the band’s chronology.

There’s also both sides of the bonus 7” released with the original run of ‘Kaleidoscope World’ whcih are included on the CD for the first time as well as ‘Smile From A Dead Dead Face’ is a live takes a good song which never made it into the recording studio (but previously featured on a Chills’ rarities boxset).

Which leaves the short piano instrumental ‘Martyn’s Doctor Told Me’ which as far as I can work out is the only previously unreleased track on the set.

As the Chills were assimilated into the music business and buffeted by the commercial pressures of being signed to a label their sound inevitably changed. Accordingly ‘Kaleidoscope World’ stands alone as a pure, undiluted version of the band’s sound.

Here’s a video taster for the album: