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Alternative & Indie - Released May 14, 2021 | Fire Records

When the first track on Scatterbrain, the latest from the Martin Phillipps solo project better known as The Chills, starts with "Give me the power of ancient stones/ Honor the monolith," it's nearly impossible not to have visions of Spinal Tap dancing in your head. Two songs later, in "Destiny," Phillips having regained his balance, returns from Stonehenge and declares with no small hint of autobiography, "I'm autarchic, on the mend." The subject of the 2019 documentary film, The Chills: The Triumph & Tragedy of Martin Phillipps, the eccentric and not altogether likable singer/songwriter has been the chief songwriter and the only constant member since the band's formation in Dunedin, New Zealand in the early 1980s. After their jangly eccentric pop (dubbed the "Dunedin Sound") had a brush with international success following the 1990 release of Submarine Bells on U.S.-based Slash Records, the band spiraled into instability led by Phillipps' descent into almost-lethal self-abuse accompanied by—as the documentary makes clear—horrific hoarding. The 2015 release of Silver Bullets, followed by 2018's Snow Bound signaled Phillipps' return to health and his art, which has culminated in his best collection of songs and vocal performances since Submarine Bells. Not surprisingly, Phillipps has lately been contemplating mortality and its consequences. In "Caught in My Eye" with his voice deliberately close-miked and forward in the mix, he repeats "I won't cry/ There must be something caught in my eye," before he ponders the finality of passings in verses like "Answers from the past now lie behind a sealed door/ All the things I could have asked/ They're now secrets evermore." In "Safe and Sound" the nearly 60-year-old Phillipps, with a life now approximating normality, celebrates nesting as he relishes staying home at night. The obvious single here, "Little Alien," features Phillipps placidly crooning "Linger on little alien/ Battle on little alien," over the album's most accessible melody. Perhaps it's a side effect of Phillipps' renewed enthusiasm for creativity and setting things right in his career, but this incarnation of the band with Callum Hampton (bass), Todd Knudson (drums), Erica Scally (guitar, keyboards) and Oli Wilson (keyboards) sounds unusually cohesive and committed. While the melodies and lyrics are Phillipps' strongest in many years, it's the arrangements and touches like the dramatic keyboard and drum refrains in "You're Immortal," another tune contemplating the fragility of life, that make this a welcome new chapter in The Chills' never-ending saga. © Robert Baird/Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released August 19, 2016 | Flying Nun Records

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Pop - Released June 27, 1994 | Rhino - Slash

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Rock - Released September 14, 2018 | Fire Records

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Pop - Released May 19, 2016 | Fire Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 29, 2021 | Fire Records

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Pop - Released June 27, 1994 | Rhino - Slash

Going through yet another line-up revamp -- Phillipps is the only one remaining from the Submarine Bells performers -- the Chills approached what turned out to be the final album as simply the Chills (instead of "Martin Phillipps and...") in an unsettled state. Former bassist Terry Moore rejoined, dB's legend Peter Holsapple was drafted to provide additional guitars and keyboards, while Van Dyke Parks provided unnerving orchestration for one track, "Water Wolves," but Phillipps remained dead center as always. The result was okay, but not as distinctly Chills as before -- the near-perfect fusion and extension of earlier styles on Bells became more of a grab-bag, with a few awkward stabs at proto-adult album alternative airplay. Other tunes range from brawling (and overproduced?) rockers to the series of tracks called "Soft Bomb" scattered throughout the album like commercial breaks. More quirky numbers include the drunk music hall band arrangement on "There Is No Harm in Trying" and "Song for Randy Newman Etc.," an odd homage to the musician obliquely addressing artistic struggles over a nice piano melody. Opener "The Male Monster From the Id" shows Phillipps' smart way with words hasn't changed at all, but the music isn't the strongest he's done, signaling the album's sometimes-on sometimes-off nature. The chorus of "Background Affair," an airy, inspiring float with the music, or the clever opening of the first "Soft Bomb": "If you'd asked me at a concert standing by the Clean/ I'd have said I'm OK, and this is what I mean" are among the "on" highlights. Further high points include the lovely "Halo Fading," and the slightly bluesy, ominous late-night vibe of "Entertainer." © Ned Raggett /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released November 11, 1986 | Flying Nun Records

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Rock - Released October 9, 2020 | The Major Label

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 9, 2021 | Fire Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 14, 2013 | Fire Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released December 16, 2020 | Fire Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released January 28, 2021 | Fire Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released February 13, 2019 | Fire Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released December 11, 2015 | Fire Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released November 21, 2018 | Fire Records

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Rock - Released August 16, 2018 | Fire Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released December 11, 2015 | Fire Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released July 6, 2018 | Fire Records

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Pop - Released February 15, 2017 | Fire Records