Martin Phillipps and the Chills “Surrounded”

1996-martin-philipps-and-the-chills-surroundedBy 1996 the Chills were known as Martin Phillipps and the Chills, but like other videos from this time, the latest incarnation of the Chills are absent, with Martin Phillipps the only star of the video.

The song has a quirky, upbeat tone with dark lyrics (bloody goths) and the video picks up on this. It starts with stage show, where Martin plays “the great Persevero”. I assume he is skilled at persevering.

He’s up on stage with some cardboard waves moving from side to side, and a cardboard sun, reminiscent of the “Sunburnt” album cover. We also see Martin in more regular guise, strumming along on his guitar, sitting amongst a pile of highly symbolic crushed cars.

There’s more fun to be had on stage, at Persevero tries hard to perform his magic tricks, only to set fire to the chain of handkerchiefs. The stage also features the only appearance of another person, whose sole purpose seems to be to comedically swing a ladder around to bump Persevero over.

Compared to the slicker efforts of previous Chills videos, “Surrounded” is obviously a much lower budget number, but it captures the dark humour at the heart of the song.

Best bit: the junkyard dog, not at all interested in the pop goings-on.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a three-way.

Martin Phillipps and the Chills “Dreams Are Free”

1996-the-chills-dreams-are-freeThe Chills return with a cheerful two-minute punk-pop love song. Only because it’s the world of Martin Phillipps, it’s a song of forbidden love. Nonetheless, the rollicking organ and crunchy guitar make it a feelgood pop tune that’s begging to be danced to.

The video sees the Chills dressed in white, performing the song in a dirty white room. It cleverly reflects the lyrics – not-quite-pure-white meets not-quite-pure-love.

But just in case things got too close to the world of commercial pop, there’s a bit of weirdness thrown in for good measure. Martin Phillipps is shown with his face covered in some sort of white goop, looking like a cross between The Moon from “The Mighty Boosh” and some sort of Leigh Bowery performance art. It almost seems like a deliberate act of sabotage, as if making a more sunny video could risk the single becoming – gasp – popular.

Best bit: What looks like a hopscotch grid on the ground.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… those girls are poison.

Martin Phillipps and the Chills “Come Home”

1995-the-chills-come-homeMiami Sound Machine became Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine, by the mid ’90s the Chills had rebranded as Martin Phillipps and the Chills. The cheerful “Home Come” was the first single off new album “Sun Burnt”, and it served as a clarion call to young expat New Zealanders.

The video introduces us to two such expats. In New York, a glamorous young woman wearing a giant winter hat drops a handful of coins in the cup of an elderly beggarman. She furrows her brow, as if she has realised deep down that it is not right for an elderly man who be out begging in the middle of winter. Come home! New Zealand does not have many beggars and the winters are mild, anyway!

Meanwhile in London, a young man wearing surfer gear works behind bar. His short hair is roughly braided. While he goes about his job, he is momentarily distracted, as if he is remembering the golden summers he spent surfing in Gisborne. He doesn’t see much sun in this dingy bar. Come home! You can work in a bar by the beach, and you don’t even have to bother with mixing drinks as it is the ’90s and RTDs are new on the scene!

Back in New Zealand, a group of children play hide and seek in a park. Sure, it’s not as exciting as London or New York, but, like, it’s green and there are trees. And children.

Throughout all this the Chills play on an isolated beach, complete with highly symbolic megaphones. I’m sure this video would have persuaded a few homesick Kiwis to return back to Aotearoa, but it’s only really going to be successful if you hate cities and love isolated outdoor areas.

Best bit: where the camera appears to chase a boy, who turns and runs in fear.

Director: Mark Tierney
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… running, jumping, helicoptering.

The Chills “Wet Blanket”

1994-the-chillls-wet-blanket“Wet Blanket” was an album track on the Chills 1987 album “Brave Worlds”, but was rereleased as a single off the 1994 best-of album “Heavenly Pop Hits”.

The rest of the band (whoever they were at this stage) are absent from the video, but occasionally there’s a shot of a lone instrument, a reminder of the missing. It’s just Martin performing in front of a green screen, sometimes in black and white, other times with a golden red tint.

It’s a song of love, and the simple video gets the message across. Maybe it’s just the mood I’m in today, but I’m totally sold on it. If a Phillipps-esque fellow wrote this song for me, it would work.

Near the end, there’s a shot of Martin’s famous leather jacket, another reminder of the missing.

Best bit: the ’90s background textures, like an old-school webpage.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… the boys take Manhattan.

The Chills “Male Monster from the Id”

Martin Phillipps takes on the male monster from the id, aka the impulse-driven brain bit what wants to root you. The video, which legend has it cost much more than the $5000 NZ On Air funding, is a slick black and white number.

Grim objects move about, a wunderkammer of complexity. A doll head, skulls, brains, scissors, a fish, a key, lightbulbs, a bald dude’s head. These are a few of my favourite things.

But do these objects really represent the male id, the “animal behaviour” that Martin sings of? The trouble is, if you were to fill the video with id fantasy objects, you’d probably end up with an indie version of a gangsta rap video – Martin larging it with booty girls, smoking cigars and drinking Hennessy, laid back with his mind on his money and his money on his mind.

Best bit: the eyeball hanging out with its friend the pair of scissors.

Next… an extravagant world of silver.