The Chills’ comeback is not like other indie-rock comebacks. For starters, they were never really “here” in the first place: Despite being one of the stand-bearers for New Zealand’s fuzzily melodic kiwi pop movement, and being responsible for 1984’s crushingly beautiful “Pink Frost,” they never quite cracked the U.S. market. On top of that, they broke up at least twice before, once in the early ’80s and again in the mid ’90s. At the same time, they never really went away, either: They’ve kept playing shows in New Zealand, and the classic kiwi pop style can still be heard in various indie bands, not least the Chills’ new Fire Records labelmates Surf City or Scott & Charlene’s Wedding.
No wonder, then, that the Chills’ new song “Molten Gold” stays true to their scruffy, poetic charms. Out today, on band lynchpin Martin Phillips’ 50th birthday, the song takes an evocative image — a precious, solid thing, in a liquid, impermanent state — and sets its to bounding, violin-accented guitar-pop that loses no luster for being familiar. “You pray for love / You find it’s always there,” Phillips sings.
“Molten Gold” shares a title with a bluesy ’70s rock ballad by Paul Kossoff, from the English band Free, and the song’s billing as the Chills’ first new one since 1996 deserves a tiny asterisk (they put out the Stand By EP in 2004, though that collected songs they’d previously been playing live). But it’s unmistakably the Chills. And this band could always use a little more shine.