The Chills

Brave Words

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The first proper album from the Chills, following a several-years'-long string of classic indie pop singles, is the culmination of the band's early promise. Produced by Texas art rock weirdo Mayo Thompson, the sound is thick and echoey, adding a layer of foreboding even to relatively bright tunes like the manic opener "Push" and turning songs like the brilliant "16 Heartthrobs" (a creepy, anguished memorial to Jayne Mansfield) into dark, throbbing epics. Andrew Todd's organ work is unusually prominent in the mix, overshadowing even Martin Phillipps' lead vocals on several tracks. The effect tends to treat Phillipps' voice as another instrument, which when combined with the tumbling logorrhea of his lyrics gives the sound an odd, unsettling urgency. Brave Words doesn't have the simplicity and directness of the Chills' early singles (collected on the Kaleidoscope World LP), which caused some longtime fans to dismiss the album upon its release; listened to at some remove, the merits of songs as graceful as "Night of Chill Blue" and the endearing "Look for the Good in Others and They'll See the Good in You" are obvious. Brave Words may well be the Chills' finest album.

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