These days, when just about every “indie” band mines 80s synth-pop for its hipness and nostalgia, it’s sometimes easy to forget that blissful, guitar-driven power-pop was also fertile musical ground in the waning years of the Cold War.
Nowhere was more meticulous guitar-pop crafted than in the southern hemisphere, even in such far-flung places as Dunedin, New Zealand—which for a while in the 80s and 90s nurtured a remarkable scene. Like a lot of “alternative” bands in the 80s, purveyors of “Dunedin Sound” were offshoots from punk and new wave and favored chorused, jangly guitars; atmospheric textures; gutsy drumming; and a lo-fi aesthetic.
Chief among Dunedin’s progeny were The Chills, led by singer and guitarist Martin Phillipps, who remained largely a cult success outside of New Zealand but attained considerable popularity in their homeland.
Today we go back—way back—to unearth two of the band’s early songs, “Pink Frost” (perhaps their biggest hit, which cracked the Top 20 in New Zealand) and “Oncoming Day.”
The songs suggest a legion of other great 80s “college radio” guitar-pop bands—from R.E.M. to Crowded House to The Smiths to The La’s—but there’s a twinge of 60s psychedelia present, as well, and a certain something that I can only attribute to the band’s south Pacific derivation. Enjoy!