Music

The Chills – "America Says Hello" (Singles Going Steady)

New Zealand musical legands and former Flying Nun recording artists, the Chills, are releasing their first full-length album since 1996's Sunburnt. Silver Bullets comes out on October 30 via Fire and we look at their new single.

Where did this spryness come from? As it is with all the pioneers of the Dunedin scene, you expect them to mellow out once they reach a certain age. But the Chills return in full form after close to 20 years with a propulsive confidence that gives an eye wink to their reverb-soaked contemporaries. Not that it’s a complete surprise -- Martin Phillips has always had it in him to remold the Chills, and after sprinkling a few tracks here and there in the past few years it seems he’s finally concocted a formula that works. It’s a succinct rock song that curiously reminded of a less bombastic British Sea Power, which isn’t a bad thing, really. It’s also idiosyncratic enough to distinguish it as a Chills track, and that’s reason enough to believe that “America Says Hello” is a welcome return to the full-length album format. -- JUAN EDGARDO RODRIGUEZ (8/10)

Who knew the Chills were still around? It must be geezer week at PopMatters. My knowledge of the Chills doesn’t expand beyond Kaleidoscope World. Immediately, at the song’s opening here, I’m wondering “has nothing changed since then?” Or did they change and then “return to form”? Which version of the reunion/comeback narrative are we performing here? What’s that you say, Netflix? A Fuller House? It’s easy to stay cynical in a pop culture detritus-scape where everything is some kind of recycled byproduct of some other artifact of the recent past. At least the Chills have the good graces to acknowledge this. “America Says Hello” is actually a damn fine Kiwi jangle rock song. The change of course around a minute and a half in is executed masterfully and the band exhibit a deft ability to offroad beyond that jolt in a way that doesn’t completely destabilize the track’s momentum or thrust. However, this serviceable number’s form rather than its functionality and economy mar it from having anything beyond a superficial impact It’s almost as if the '80s came back to the future to comment on our times, the tongue-tied contortion of “epic fail” a reverberation back onto itself, a declaration of dyschronic motion sickness. It’s important to respect your elders though, I suppose. -- TIMOTHY GABRIELE (6/10)

New Zealand indie-rock legends the Chills are due to release Silver Bullets, their first new album in nearly two decades, at the end of October, and “America Says Hello” is a tantalizing first glimpse. It’s a glorious return, with jangly guitars, a driving rhythm, and a terrific vocal by Martin Phillips. “America Says Hello” is unmistakably dark and political in tone, with caustic lines like “For on behalf of the war God Mars, here are 50 white frightening fit stars that make people want to wail and pray, saying Rome wasn’t burnt in a day” delivered with searing intensity. The Chills are best known for their essential 1990 classic Submarine Bells, and while it’s probably too much to expect they’ll ever reach those heights again, “America Says Hello” raises expectations for the new album considerably. -- CHRIS GERARD (9/10)

Didn't I see this on 120 Minutes? They used to call this "college rock". -- JOHN BERGSTROM (5/10)

It’s pretty hard not to get excited by a new Chills track, considering that this would be the first that I’d been able to hear of them that’s brand new ever since I’d gotten into ‘em. Their last chronological release was put out when I was three, for goodness’ sake! Despite the refreshed lineup, the band sounds much more like an updated version of itself than it really tries to do anything astoundingly different, and for the first song that they’ve released in nearly two decades, that’s totally fine with me. Just hearing the slicker production as the song knocks itself into high gear with the familiar, chimey synth and fantastical lyrical imagery as it's relative towards the real world is enough to get me going. Whether they strike any form of innovation is beyond me, here, and it really doesn’t quite matter right now. The Chills are back, just as good as they were before an extended hiatus, and that’s awesome. --JONATHAN FRAHM (7/10)


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