Scattered Pearls is a new series in which people are asked to write about a band that has affected them, without necessarily gaining the affection or recognition of the general public. The following piece was written by Joe Sparrow, who has spent the past couple of years educating the readers of his blog A New Band a Day with the most up-to-date acts and accompanied with witty purple prose. Drawing on his years of experience, he sent the following as his views on a forgotten great:
Today, rock music is dead, or at least it is according to creepily soft-spoken Pop-Gob-For-Hire Paul Gambiccini. With agonising inevitability, he was recently wheeled out to add his unwanted murmurings to a flimsy theory no-one really cared about. Anyone with a passing interest knows that rock music is cyclical, and anyone with more than a passing interest knows that the really interesting music is made in the lull periods such as this one.
So savour the next six months, before Brother’s Menswe@r-lite churn-rock staggers all over our world, their wince-inducing chord changes a collective punch to the face of sensibility. Remember: the gentle, careful, hazy guitar pop of right now is as good as you’re going to get for a while.
Sure, these bands snaffle shamelessly from the past too, but they’re looking a little further past the end of their own noses, possibly (though probably not) to The Chills – a band who aren’t so much forgotten as much as having characterised their existence by constantly and wilfully driving deep into the shadows.
The Chills may have only produced one song of real worth, but so what – no-one complains that Harper Lee only wrote one good book and then kept the rest to herself: instead they threw Pulitzers at her and put To Kill A Mockingbird on school sylabusses worldwide.
Pink Frost was The Chills’ very own Boo Radley: a song that creeps with misunderstood menace and drenched with dangerous allure. It was released in 1984 to a moderately rapt home crowd – thundering straight into New Zealand’s Top 17 at number 17 – and then to a largely disinterested world.
Signing to Creation in the UK only garnered the predictably flaccid sales you’d expect of most 80’s Creation acts. This, coupled with creative mastermind Martin Phillipps’ stupifying drug problems and his (possibly not unrelated) decision to change the bands line-up at least 20 (twenty) times, made The Chills the band who blew it before they even had a chance to blow it.
Still, just listen to Pink Frost. Just listen. If you think that there’s a more beautiful song about love, loss – hell, anything – then you could only be one of the many ex-members of the band who know too well the agony of never performing a stunning song to a wider audience.
If this song was released now – and it’s the kind of song Pitchfork would have been hyperventilating about just last week – it would be soundtracking either the last Twilight Saga movie, or something by Darren Aronofsky. Either way, teenage girls everywhere would be sobbing in their bedrooms to it.
Reality is painful. Pink Frost is balm for that hurt. Just listen.
A New Band a Day is updated five days a week, giving a great insight into the best new music available on the web. Sparrow also writes Bad Cover Versions, which is about the biggest crimes ever commited against renowned songs. Both are recommended reading.