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Soft bomb

music reviewmusic reviewmusic review  out of 4 Music Review: Soft bomb

Artist: The Chills
Genre: Rock/Pop
Release Date: June 1992

Review by LarryG
3 stars out of 4

New Zealand's The Chills are a band well worth checking out. Their leader, Martin Phillips, wrote intelligent songs that had a great pop sensibility. The band began to hit its stride with 1990's Submarine Blues, a lovely, simple record featuring the appropriately named(except the hit part) Heavenly Pop Hit, the straight ahead rocker the Oncoming Day and the gorgeous title track. Phillips beefed up the band's sound for Soft Bomb, getting the help of veteran studio pro Peter Holsapple, formerly of the great 70's power pop band the dBs, to fill out the sound with guitars and keyboards. Holsapple has also worked with REM and must have seen that the Chills share REM's ability to make great, unshowy music. The real attraction of Soft Bomb is Phillips' songs.

Soft Bomb is filled with joyful, ungimmicky rockers.  The Male Monster From the Id is great rock and a funny, insightful song of trying to be a sensitive and "keep my caveman hidden." Soft Bomb 1, about the pressures to make commercial music, starts with Phillips' electric guitar and continues to grow in excitement as other instuments join in. Phillips has a refreshingly idealistic, pacifist world view which he slips unobtrusively into his songs. Sleeping Giants is an exhilarating, fast pop rock song which delivers a hopeful message about the world's great powers being able to work together to fight evil. Soft Bomb 2 is a simple one minute plea for a peaceful world. The highlight of Soft Bomb is the austere, beautiful Song for Randy Newman etc, Phillips' heartfelt tribute to eccentric rock geniuses like Brian Wilson and Syd Barrett to whom Phillips clearly feels an affinity. Phillips is accompanied only by a piano as he sings of the treatment they get from a world who "take so much, they use and discard" and "a journey they were forced to make" and musical convictions that "drives away your lovers and keeps at bay the others."  Phillips has a great musical gift for creating an uplifting mode. Double Summer creates an irresistable light mood through keyboards and subtle guitars that perfectly communicate the song's story of the potential of a new romance. Phillips shows his likeable optimism, singing: "life never tires of great surprises." While Soft Bomb is mostly upbeat, there are also some poignant slower songs. Sanctuary shows Phillips' understanding of the dark side of the Male Monster from the Id, clearly urging a battered woman to "get out of there". Water Wolves uses Van Dyke Parks string arrangement to complete a stark, poetic mood. Soft Bomb has lots of fun touches.  There is No Harm in Trying is a weird 40 second song which is answered later in the record with the 35 second There is No Point in Trying.   While he has since used the Chills name again, Phillips broke up the band after reaching a high point with the brilliant Soft Bomb.



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