Everyone equates pop music with Madonna, Girls Aloud and Robbie chuffing Williams., blissfully unaware that albums as glorious Submarine Bells exist, for make no mistake this is pop music. Not only that it’s pop music of the highest order. Pop music as it should always be and so rarely is- incandescent, optimistic yet at times moving and vulnerable, and so tuneful it would make a gargoyle whistle. Originally released in March 1990 Chills songwriter/singer Martin Phillips was overseeing the groups 15th incarnation or something( When they recorded their next album the patchily superb “Soft Bomb” there was only him left from the line up that recorded this album) despite the fact this was only their second album in 10 years. New Zealand where this band hails from must have provided plenty of distractions even in those pre “Lord of the Rings “days. Not to worry. This album was well worth the wait. Opening track “Heavenly Pop Hit” is a wonderful statement of atavistic intent and by default the most apt description of its magnificent charms. It soars on wings of alabaster then swoops down on top of the colossal keyboard melody, Phillips elegant vocals straining at the epiphany of the sublime chorus. “Singing in My Sleep” has more of the bands churning keyboard and a refrain so hummable it will percolate round your head for weeks after. The glorious songs just keep on coming. “Oncoming Day” is a nerve frazzled rush of joy and wizard like charm. “Part past Part Friction” twists and leaps like a trout in a tumble dryer while “I Soar”….well, let’s just say it soars. “Familiarity Breeds Contempt” has a more acerbic edge but still revels in a pin sharp melody while the more delicate “Effloresce and Deliquesce” tune smithery dissolve s on wispy trails of guitar. Even the thirty second “Sweet Times “is a monstrous swell of ethereal melody. Just to show that buffed up perfect pop isn’t their only forte there are two wonderful ballads. “Don’t Be Memory”, the sort of song with a tangible sense of frustration and longing that shows up most of today’s sensitive troubadours for the whiny fakes they are. The eponymous epic “Submarine Bells” is beautifully arranged with creaking strings embellishing the songs depiction of some aquatic Shangri La. It also highlights Phillips under rated lyrical talent to it’s fullest -” I slice the surface here beside you/ Lungs filled liquid yell I love you/Sound moves further underwater/ Deep and dark my submarine bells groan in greens and greys/ Mine would chime a thousand times to make you feel okay”-Poetry. Also containing a subtext of environmental concern, exacerbated by the lengthy sleeve notes this is a pop masterpiece. The Chills one consistent definitive statement. Lovers of intelligent metaphysical pop music should gaze adoringly into it, s dappled depths …then just dive in.
cause this ain't it... sorry. There are some stunning moments - Heavenly Pop Hit & Oncoming Day - but more than a few others which don't seem vintage Chills. Unfortunate 'cause The Chills were a wonderful band - and its getting hard to hunt their stuff out. Not as good an album as the brilliant (woefully produced) Brave Words - this is still a cd worth cherishing.