100 Greatest Songs of the 90’s #91 The Chills – Heavenly Pop Hit

Released : 1990

There’s something about being disconnected from a source that can lead to great art via blind and deaf imitation. Speaking about the process that created The Overload for the Remain In Light album, Talking Head David Byrne discussed wanting to emulate Joy Division without ever actually hearing any of their music, whilst Detroit’s early techno producers were trying to imagine the disciplined mechanics of a Europe they’d never visited.

The Dunedin sound – a spiky amalgam of punk ideals and more durable sonics named after the New Zealand town it called home – grew up similarly, isolated and half a world away from the raincoated miserabalists of northern Europe. Led by Martin Phillips, The Chills briefly became it’s only descendants to reach a global stage, signing with a major label on the strength of a late 80’s surge of interest in Antipodean artists led by Crowded House, INXS and Midnight Oil.

It was to be a brief and dysfunctional relationship, but it would at least give a platform to Submarine Bells, Phillips’ eco-influenced masterpiece. And from it came Heavenly Pop Hit, a sublime exploration of sixties and seventies ideals blessed with a chorus so clean that it seemed to herald the emergence of a songwriter to rival Neil Finn. Instead it proved to be the band’s commercial zenith, preceding an acrimonious split and life-threatening health issues for Phillips (now thankfully under control), but as heavenly one hit wonders go, there’ve been few better.

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