BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
Although they’ve achieved close to legendary stature in their native New Zealand, The Chills have never garnered anywhere near the kind of fame that their countrymen Crowded House enjoyed here in the U.S. Constant changes in the line-up may be possibly to blame; despite more than 20 years of plying their trade, the band’s leader Martin Phillipps remains the only constant. And yet, their generally accessible style should have made more of an impact, especially given the favorable reaction Americans have had to most music brewed Down Under.
Happily then, the domestic crowd gets a second chance to show appreciation thanks to the release of Somewhere Beautiful, a live set spread over three LPs and recorded at a private party on New Year’s Eve 2011. Despite some apparent technical glitches, the music resonates well, an unlikely mix of raucous rockers and elegiac chamber pop, with some semi-psychedelia tossed in for good effect. And while the occasional cacophony that marks tracks like “Walk on the Beach” and “House With a Hundred Rooms” can be jarring, other songs — such as “Wet Blanket,” “Soft Bomb Part One” and “Part Past Part Fiction” — have them sounding like New Zealand’s version of REM, thanks to Phillipps’ breathless vocals and similarly jangled intents.
Whether or not Somewhere Beautiful finds favor with those who are heretofore unawares remains to be seen. With twenty tracks and plenty of impromptu circumstance, it may not offer the same potential for pure appreciation that a standard anthology of studio tracks might provide. Nevertheless, there’s an adventurous spirit contained herein, and The Chills show they’re adept at heating things up as necessary.
DOWNLOAD: “Wet Blanket,” “Part Past Part Fiction,” “Soft Bomb Part One”