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)





The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Mobley Laments the Evil of "James Crow" in the US

Austin's Mobley makes upbeat-sounding, soulful pop-rock songs with a political conscience, as on his latest single, "James Crow".


Jordan Tice's "Bad Little Idea" Is a Satirical Spin on Dire Romance (premiere)

Hawktail's Jordan Tice impresses with his solo work on "Bad Little Idea", a folk rambler that blends bluesy undertones with satiric wit.


Composer Ilan Eshkeri Discusses His Soundtrack for the 'Ghost of Tsushima' Game

Having composed for blockbuster films and ballet, Ilan Eshkeri discusses how powerful emotional narratives and the opportunity for creative freedom drew him to triple-A video game Ghost of Tsushima.


Love and Cinema: The Ruinous Lives in Żuławski's L'important c'est d'aimer

Żuławski's world of hapless also-rans in L'important C'est D'aimer is surveyed with a clear and compassionate eye. He has never done anything in his anarchic world by the halves.


On Bruce Springsteen's Music in Film and TV

Bruce Springsteen's music in film and television captured author Caroline Madden's imagination. She discuses her book, Springsteen as Soundtrack, and other things Springsteen in this interview.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.