Album Reviews

The Chills – Scatterbrain

(Fire) UK release date: 14 May 2021

The Chills - Scatterbrain Only the mighty Chills could open an album, four decades into their rainbow bright career, with a song about performing primordial pagan rituals and come out with a radio friendly, darkly fizzing summery pop wonder that clocks in at just under three minutes.

The memorable chorus of Monolith, which acts as a thank you to fans for his group’s longevity and perhaps takes a dig at one of the great rock bands of the ’60s, has front man Martin Phillipps cheekily chanting “Gimme the power of the ancient Stones / Honour the Monolith”. Adding this irrationally great seventh studio album Scatterbrain to the band’s already extraordinary back catalogue, it appears the elder ones have been listening closely.

After getting off to a gently spooky start with that appreciative prayer for creative sustenance, Phillipps addresses his own mortality and autonomy on the muted acoustic guitar and whirligig organ stirrings of Hourglass, and then the densely psychedelic chamber pop of Destiny. Both tracks follow on from the sullen mariachi of last year’s You’re Immortal single, which appears here, and offer some much needed, if subdued, optimism in the face of escalating personal adversity. A peculiar tenderness pervades through the piano ballad Caught In My Eye, as Phillipps sternly refuses to show signs of weakness, and on the foamy Safe And Sound the band temporarily retreat from the outside world to regroup and energise for the remainder of the record.

And so, the thunderous Worlds Within Worlds jangles, dips and darts around triumphantly, and the title track crackles with the band’s trademark irregular romantic élan before the noticeably fuzz heavy Walls Beyond Abandon concludes proceedings in an appropriately hopeful manner, as they escape their surroundings for new adventures. Rarely straying into alien territory, the Dunedin quintet remains as restless and decorous as ever on Scatterbrain, proving that even the unsteadiest of minds can achieve greatness again and again.

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