Beckoned by John Peel himself, the first time The Chills entered the BBC studios in Maida Vale it was a dream come true for the little band that could from New Zealand. Exporting the kind of unique pop smarts that only emanate from Dunedin, they were only too happy to graduate to the fully stocked studio and show the UK what they really had to offer. Removed from past budget restrictions, but pushed forward by the time constraints of a one day recording, the results produced a rush of superior recordings of their early material, without losing any of the charm so vital to their appeal. This was the real sound of The Chills.
Captured across three Peel Sessions, from December 1985 to December 1988, The BBC Sessions highlights a fascinating look at band quickly transforming from being fish out of water on tiny Flying Nun back home, to finding themselves on hip labels of the day like Creation and Homestead, and then quickly moving to Slash and the world of the majors, with the spotlight of critical acclaim following them at every turn. The growth from end to end is incredible to witness, while never losing the one-of-a-kind outlook songwriter Martin Phillipps has on the outside world.
Given the opportunity to choose four songs for each session, it operates almost as an alternate reality “best of” for the band. Operating outside of commercial pressures, they bypass some of the more obvious material and embrace many of the songs closest to their hearts, a clutch of which they still play live, with Phillipps including many recently on only his second ever solo set outside of New Zealand. The selections veer back and forth from some of their more complex material to a handful of Martin’s more straightforward tunes, all delivered with that definitive Chills sound.
Session one features early standouts, with a rollicking “Rolling Moon” and pensive “Brave Words,” to a bracing “Wet Blanket” and spooky “Night Of Chill Blue.” From that first strum you are instantly brought into Phillipps world, never to be the same. A year and a half later, Phillipps would return with an entirely new line-up and deliver a celebratory and joyous set, veering from side to side with “Dan Destiny & The Silver Dawn” and “Living In A Jungle,” before a bouncing version of “Rain” and marching out via “Moonlight On Flesh.” Virtually the same crew would find their way back to record many of the songs that would find their way on to the classic “Submarine Bells” album that would be their major label debut. “Part Past, Part Fiction” haunts, while also showcasing the brilliant interplay amongst the band. The not widely released “Christmas Chimes” serves as a hidden gem, as “Effloresce and Deliquesce” darts through the darkness, before the organ-driven “Dead Web” brings everything full circle, as a perfect sonic bookend to “Rolling Moon.”
You can hear the sound of band at the very height of their power, with the world at their feet, and a confident songwriter at the helm, ready for anything. Ready for the oncoming day.
The Chills “The BBC Sessions” collects all of the band’s recordings for the BBC and brings them to you in high fidelity, re-mastered and available on CD and LP for the first time.