Friday, May 14, 2021

The Chills - Scatterbrain


A lesson in looking on the bright side. I rather thought I might give the latest Chills record, Scatterbrain, a miss this time. I've been rather underwhelmed by their recent offerings and it seems rather late in the day for a late career masterpiece.But Scatterbrain was released on a quiet morning for notable new releases, so I gave it a listen. Then I played it gain, Then again. They're in fine fettle.

On first play I was underwhelmed. Second play and my interest was pricked. Third play I was chastising myself for my lack of faith in them. The Chills are rarely any less than likeable. Here they're truly lovable. In many ways this initially sounds a bit like a Martin Phillips solo album, as he's foregrounded a lot more in the mix, certainly much more so than on their best known Eighties records when it was always clearly a team effort. The band are there for sure here, but more content this time to play supporting roles.

But give them time. This lot know just what they are doing just like Teenage Fanclub and Dinosaur. Jr have proved they do in recent weeks and the record unwraps on each  play revealing further gifts with modest but assured grace. The Chills have stood the course of time. More so even than either TF or D.Jr., they were always something of a paradox. Upbeat tunes, downcast, troubled interiors. More than immediately meet the eye. No change here.

This is very much a rumination on mortality, perhaps something you'd expect, given the band and particularly Phillips' advancing years and also their track record preoccupations. He was always a somewhat contrary, fatalistic type. Song titles like Hourglass and You're Immortal and lyrics almost everywhere else, underline this without the greatest subtlety. It's late in the day. Time to consider all of our final journeys. Our final curtains. For Phillips and Co. but also for the rest of the planet.

The Chills are the most pastoral of Pop groups, more almost than any band I can think of.. They always had an innate feeling for the undergrowth, the ocean bed, the verdant and nocturnal, and how entwined they are with the human condition.  I'm pleased to report that these instincts are present, correct amd fully functioning here too. Scatterbrain scatters hints and clues for the listener on first play like adults planting clues for a birthday party scavenger hunt. You'll have to come back if you wish to discover how it all fits together.

These are bleak times in many ways. But this is far from a bleak record. The settings are arcadian and verdant, the band determined and more than able to make the most of the hand that life has dealt them. Scatterbrain is a record that takes a while to unfurl its charms but they're worth the investment of time. It's another fine product to add to the band's rich legacy. That's something I'm more than happy to endorse. Cheer up Martin, it might never happen.

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