The Chills (New Zealand) Stand By [Bonus Tracks] [EP] [Slipcase] CD

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The Chills (New Zealand) Stand By [Bonus Tracks] [EP] [Slipcase] CD. The thankfully indefatigable Martin Phillipps may have trouble holding together a consistent lineup of the Chills or completing an album, but that's not to say he doesn't keep trying, and in 2004 he released the bulk of a new Chills album in the form of the EP Stand By. Boasting eight new tunes, Stand By is a welcome reminder of Phillipps' gifts as a songwriter and his charm and strength as a frontman, though it's not one of the band's great moments in record making. Stand By's production sounds a bit flat, lacking the presence and studio savvy that made Submarine Bells and Soft Bomb so memorable; where those albums were gloriously atmospheric in a way that brought out the best in the songs, most of these tracks play like tricked-up demos, well-recorded but stubbornly two-dimensional. "True Romance," however, is a welcome exception, with a dynamic arrangement that faces a small string section against a piano and perfectly matches the eloquent heartache of the lyrics. And the songs, as expected, are great, especially the sly "Little Boy," the moody and accusatory "Bad Dancer," and the unexpectedly hard-rocking "Torturing Me" and "February." With Stand By, Phillipps and his latest lineup of Chills were more than halfway through delivering their first studio album since 1992, and if what was released is less than perfect, it's good enough to bring a smile to the lips of anyone who loved the Chills. ~ Mark Deming


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