The Chills’ Bowie Jukebox

The Chills’ Bowie Jukebox

The beloved Dunedin, New Zealand indie luminaries known as The Chills formed back in 1980 and though they’ve had an ever-revolving line-up over the years, Martin Phillipps has always remained at the band’s core.

The Chills were connected to Flying Nun from the early days, releasing numerous beloved singles through the aforementioned influential label (there were finally compiled on their touchstone full length debut Kaleidoscope World in 1986). Known for their bright guitar hooks, lush vocal harmonies and wonderful melodic pop, their sound stands in stark contrast to band’s internal turbulence, turbulence characterized by battling drugs, death, depression and demons over the years.

While The Chills are rooted in the jangly, indie pop tradition, their eclectic sound makes it hard to pigeonhole them as this or that. In a recent interview with The Guardian, Martin Phillipps explains further: “There was almost orchestral stuff, folky stuff, psychedelic stuff, quirky stuff. It’s really hard to put on a Chills album in any given place. You couldn’t put it on at a party because it’d suddenly go all weird on you. You couldn’t sit back and relax because it would suddenly go all punk on you.”

Best known for minor hits like “I Love My Leather Jacket” and “Pink Frost,” The Chills boast a remarkably strong album catalog despite their internal issues. In 2015, Fire Records released Silver Bullets, the band’s first album in nearly two decades, bursting with chiming Dunedin-pop anthems, melodic rock and Phillipps’ playful punk-rock tendencies.

Today we at TIDAL have the distinct honor of presenting, exclusively and in collaboration with Fire Records, The Chills’ version of David Bowie’s “Conversation Piece.” Additionally, enjoy Martin Phillipps’ five Bowie favorites presented as The Chills’ Bowie Jukebox.

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1. “An Occasional Dream”

This is to me the more beautiful of the two songs on this album which were openly written for his then girlfriend, Hermione, and it stands as one of the few more honest glimpses over the years into the mind and memories of the real David Jones.

2. “The Bewlay Brothers”

A disturbing and surreal epic which might happily be best left undeciphered – although it does seem to touch on many recurrent themes from the Bowie canon including schizophrenia, adrenalized youth and Bowie’s interest in Americana.

3. “Moonage Daydream”

As well as containing one of my favourite ever guitar breaks, courtesy of Mick Ronson, this song has some crazy word-play, sci-fi romance and borderline insanity which made it, for me as a teenager and novice outsider, a gateway track into the Ziggy album and alternate-universe.

4. “We Are The Dead”

A complex, intelligent song which seems closer to the desolate atmosphere of George Orwell’s novel than some others on Diamond Dogs. Along with ‘Big Brother’, this is also one of the key tracks which make the non-realization of the full Bowie ’1984′ musical such a tragedy.

5. “It’s Gonna Be Me”

I regard this as one of the great Bowie songs yet sadly it remains little known because it seems to have been deliberately buried – perhaps for being a little too raw and honest about a personal moment in Bowie’s life during his very troubled times in the mid-’70s.

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