Chills mainstay Martin Phillipps has a lot on his mind on Silver Bullets, the beloved New Zealand outfit’s first album in nearly 20 years. Income inequality and class warfare (“America Says Hello,” seven-minute-plus mini-suite “Pyramid/ When The Poor Can Reach The Moon”), intolerance (“Tomboy”) and love (“Warm Waveform,” “Molten Gold”)—arguably the heaviest subject of all—are dealt with firmly and frankly, couched in Phillipps’ timeless, jangly melodies.
Phillipps is downright angry on the searing “America Sells Hello,” its harder-rocking, urgent tempo quickening as his blood pressure rises: “The everyday people aren’t free, and they know they’re never going to be/With the powerful keeping them hushed as the tyrants get noisy once crushed.” But he’s also endearingly earnest throughout Silver Bullets, and it nearly gets the best of him on the penultimate “Tomboy,” a dramatic, borderline corny tale of gender-based childhood bullying and regret: “It’s a haunting recollection of that schoolyard taunting for a girl who wasn’t weak/I bet her blood was boiling, spoiling for a fight/ We called her tomboy, though we knew it wasn’t right.” Phillipps is so genuine and warm, his heart in the right place, the song ends up being compelling despite any lyrical misgivings.
“Molten Gold” ends the proceedings on a joyous and—dare we say—optimistic note, with Phillipps proclaiming that love has healed him. That’s always good for what ails you, of course, even when— much like Silver Bullets—it can take an eternity to arrive.