Great Sounds Great; Bad Sounds Bad: The Chills ‘Molten Gold’

The Chills

Great Sounds Great; Bad Sounds Bad is a column which sees a panel of writers for The Corner review a range of local singles and grade them out of 10. Check out the song below, read through their opinions and let us know in the comments section your own thoughts and what you’d like to see reviewed next time around.

[Soundcloud / iTunes]

[Grade: 7.8]

Nick Braae: Here are a few thoughts on the Chills’ latest offering ‘Molten Gold’. First, given that the Chills are the exemplary Dunedin band, and given that Dunedin is the exemplary homage to New Zealanders’ Scottish ancestry, it is only appropriate that the refrain should be a fiddled folk melody, the exemplary feature of Celtic music. Second, the guitars and bass cycle through a four-chord loop for most of the song, with a subtle variation in the bridge/instrumental that immediately (and pleasantly) recalls ‘I Love My Leather Jacket’ (it’s the flattened seventh for anyone who’s interested). Third, the band shifts the key up a couple of steps in the penultimate chorus, only to change their minds and bring it back down for the final chorus, thus subverting one of the clichés of a ‘Heavenly Pop Hit’ (see what I did there?).

I would be lying if I said this song elicited a strong response, but Martin Phillipps is a good songwriter and there are plenty of tricks scattered throughout to keep the listener guessing and engaged. It’s a comfortable song, and that is meant in the best possible way. As Phillipps begins his second half-century, it is a good time for reflection on the first, and, in a musical way, ‘Molten Gold’ does just that. [7]

Elizabeth Beattie: This is a decent melodic tune but it’s missing the lyrical depth which I have always really appreciated about the Chills. Molten Gold follows the basic Chills template, and while this song is pleasant and very listenable, it’s nothing new for this usually innovative band. Martin Phillipps’ vocals have aged well and are far more tuneful and confident than earlier Chills material, as is the production style, yet the song unfortunately ends up drifting over predictable territory. While this is an excellent track, ‘Molten Gold’ marks no change of sound for the Chills and I found myself wishing this release was a little less familiar. [6]

Luke Jacobs: When my parents moved us as kids to New Zealand 20 years ago, the first New Zealand band I remember actually liking was Headless Chickens – the second was the Chills. I can clearly remember hearing ‘Heavenly Pop Hit’ on my Form 2 woodworking teacher’s radio and being absolutely in love with it. I remember it being formed in my mind that this is a song that captures what New Zealand is like. I never seriously listened to the Chills much until my early 20s which is when I became a little obsessed with them, but I still listen to their records regularly and Martin Phillipps has become a big part of how I view not just New Zealand music, but creative expression in this country.

So reviewing this single is a bit difficult. I am a little apprehensive to a commit to an opinion on this single, but I know that I like it. In fact I can say conclusively that I love it. But I am not sure I will always love it. I don’t see this as being a song like ‘Submarine Bells’ or ‘Male Monster from the Id’ or ‘I Love My Leather Jacket’. Those are singles that feel timeless to me.

‘Molten Gold’ has the feeling of all those tracks but lacks a bit of the emotional weight that means I can’t see this as being a big part of my life in the future. But then again I wonder if I was a 31-year-old when Soft Bomb was released, would I feel the same way? Holy moly nearly 300 words and I still haven’t said anything concrete, umm [9]?

Eden Bradfield: Gleeful pop that is a direct continuation of the tin pan alley songwriters on the early 60s – the last lot of them, the kind Lou Reed wrote “do the ostrich” for and just before the idea of the artist as Creative God Messiah came into fruition. Crafted pop. Pop with cogs and things in it. [9]

Vincent Michaelsen: It took me a few listens to work out if I liked this or not, but I’ve settled on this. The song: Yes; Martyn Phillipps’ vocals: Definitely; The fiddle: Fuck yeah! [8]

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