R E V I E W
Scatterbrain by The Chills
By Ian Duggan
I used to think that as artists got older, their ability to produce good music dissipated. Scatterbrain, the seventh studio album by The Chills, is another piece of evidence to the contrary. And the fact that it entered the New Zealand charts at #4, making it the band’s best album charting achievement since 1992s Soft Bomb, tells me plenty of others agree.
Scatterbrain starts with one of the strongest tracks, ‘Monolith’. With its chorus of “Give me the power of ancient stones, honour the monolith’, I wonder what it is all about; is Martin Phillipps a fan of the TV series ‘Outlander’, or is he perhaps referencing ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’? Reading around, it is in fact far more profound; the lyrics are about the value of ancestral knowledge, ancient wisdom and the foolishness of ignoring it, something somewhat prescient in New Zealand, with the increasing awareness and general acceptance of the value of mātauranga Māori as a knowledge system.
‘You’re Immortal’ stands out as a contrast from the rest, and different from songs on previous albums also, with what the band describes as being “in the grand baroque pop manner of Love's 'Forever Changes'”. This song is particularly etched in my memory due to its excellent live interpretation on the recent album release tour, where newest member Callum Hampton exhibited his talents by simultaneously playing trumpet and bass. ‘Little Alien’ is a lovely, classic Chills pop-piece, about what may be the last individual of a soon to be extinct extra-terrestrial species. Hang in there, little fella! And let’s not forget ‘Worlds Within Worlds’ - another standout.
One thing I love about this album is its coherency from start to finish, something that appears to have lost its importance in this era where songs are commonly listened to online, moving from one artist to another, following the algorithms. A further highlight worth noting is the excellent cover artwork – providing yet another excellent reason to buy the entire album, and thus facilitating the ability of listener to take it in as it was intended, in its entirety, from start to finish. The album art, incidentally, was designed by graphic designer David Costa, who has been responsible for iconic albums including Elton John’s ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’, Queen’s ‘Night at the Opera’, the Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1, and many more.
Buy Scatterbrain from Bandcamp, or almost anywhere else.