The Chills – “Molten Gold” b/w “Pink Frost 13″ (7” single)

The Chills - Molten Gold b/w Pink Frost 13

The Chills – Molten Gold b/w Pink Frost 13

With such a sprawling and hard-to-acquire back catalogue, it’s somewhat difficult to find an easy entry point into the work of The Chills, especially for us non-New Zealand dwellers belatedly interested in the recently reactivated group led by the mercurial Martin Phillipps.  Although last year’s expansive Somewhere Beautiful live album certainly helped the situation, due to a wider global release through Fire Records, it was ultimately aimed at fans already familiar with the original studio recordings. However, whilst a new studio LP or fresh reissues don’t seem to be on the immediate horizon, this new 7” single does a joyous job in bottling-up two flavours of The Chills’ rich essence.

Released previously as a download-only track last year, “Molten Gold” makes for a transcendental A-side here.  With its soaring violin lines, tightly-fused rhythm section, VU-meets-Feelies guitar chug ‘n’ jangle, chiming bell coda and harmony-rich vocals, “Molten Gold” is an ebullient pop song par excellence, demonstrating Phillipps’ most melodic instincts in a refreshed modern-day context.  Across its three and a bit minutes you can hear Phillipps gleefully but not meanly reclaiming his debts from the likes of The Decemberists, The Hidden Cameras and The New Pornographers, with glorious abandonment, to the point where his declaration that “I feel richer than a billionaire…” is utterly convincing and uplifting.

In contrast, the flipside represents The Chills’ darker persona, through a newly-recorded version of the vintage 1984 single “Pink Frost.”  Whilst hard-core followers will no doubt endlessly debate the merits of the new over the old incarnation of this seminal Chills song, it’s near-impossible to not be mesmerised by its alluring gravitas.  An aching tale of death and romance bound up with shimmering Cure-meets-Modern English-like guitars, a post-punk rhythmic undertow and yearning vocals subtly infused by Joy Division/early-New Order, “Pink Frost” remains a beautifully dark epic in this faithful yet distinctive refashioning thirty or so years on.

Whether this release will finally pave the way for an overdue new studio album and/or much-needed reissue campaign from The Chills is unclear but as a distilled standalone statement of the band’s euphoric and melancholic reach this is a sublime evocation of the 7” single as a force for good posterity keeping.  A strong contender for single of the year in short.

Fire Records