Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pink Frost, The Chills, 1982

The clip below is at once so amateurish and perfect that I am at a bit of a loss for words.

While indie bands in America in the two decades after 1982 would wear their shambling indie half-assedness and ironic detachment on their sleeves with pride, The Chills here, while clearly a bit ramshackle, are aiming for something more.

This is not twee. This is not any form of preciousness.

This is a song about death delivered as simply as possible with a directness that an MTV-world would soon simply ignore or attempt to mold into something more marketable.

This song, like most of the work of The Go-Betweens, seems almost too good for a video and perhaps that is why both that band and The Chills never quite excited the rest of the American hipster underground as they did me and a few select friends.

With an opening jaunty riff that sounds like labelmates The Clean, The Chills launch into this song of a death in the family -- a suicide? too many details would only distract -- and with a thumping bass line, and a Moe Tucker-worthy caged fury from the drums, the song leaps forward.

Martin Phillips' guitar lines prefigure by 8 years the sound he would achieve on "Effloresce and Deliquesce" from the masterpiece, Submarine Bells, and his vocal seem at times a sort of pleading-in-a-whisper.

If I play this song in the car, alone, with the windows rolled up, driving in D.C. traffic, it's a pretty safe bet that I'm going to tear up.

Without even knowing the full story behind the lyrics, the sense of loss -- grief, a bit of quiet rage -- shines through.

And, like most of the great pop songs I've loved in my life, this one is not too long and is over with a rush before it becomes redundant.

"Effloresce and Deliquesce" (1990)

Effloresce and Deliquesce - The Chills