Very much up to the mark with the latest song deserving of a wider airing, half of the team behind The Indie Credential, The Ledge:
The Chills - Pink Frost
It was almost twenty years ago that I first heard The Chills’ Pink Frost, sitting in my bedroom at the family home in Manchester, listening intently to Tony The Greek’s legendary (in my eyes, at least) Sunday night show on Piccadilly Radio. So taken by the song was Tony that he played it again at the end of the night and it become a staple of the show for the next few months. Its effect on me would be far greater than I could have known back then, and lead to the discovery of New Zealand record label Flying Nun and the embarrassment of riches that make up its back catalogue in the Eighties from the likes of The Clean, The Verlaines, The Bats, The Jean Paul Sartre Experience, The Terminals and many, many more (even some that didn’t begin with the definitive article). A four week shopping trip to NZ in 1994 yielded approximately 25 CDs, most on Flying Nun. I may also have done some sightseeing while I was there.
Pink Frost is a truly haunting pop song. We join the action as the singer struggles to control his emotions as his girl lies dying in his arms. He admits to the crime ("How can I live when you see what I’ve done?") which it seems was committed in an uncontrolled rage ("I thought I was dreaming - so I didn’t heed her screaming") but he’s already full of remorse by the first chorus, the thought of her death filling his heart with the eponymous pink frost. One verse later and the girl’s dead. "She’s lost" the protagonist wails mournfully in the chilling middle eight.
But the song’s narrative is less than half the story. What really makes this a classic is the incredible atmosphere created by what was then just a standard guitar/bass/drums three piece. The chiming, upbeat guitar riff that opens the song bears little relationship to what comes after but it’s a great intro that renders the song instantly recognisable. Things change dramatically with a quite beautiful segue into the first verse where Terry Moore’s ethereal, pulsating bass and Martin Phillips’ now muted guitar chimes rise and fall in unison, creating a feeling of great unease. When the song settles into its main riff the bass and drums take over and the song positively throbs with menace. It’s a superb confluence of music and narrative content that few bands are capable of (Joy Division spring to mind here and Martyn Bull’s drumming certainly owes a debt to them) and it pulls the listener into the thick of the action. I’ve always had a clear picture in my mind of the song’s setting: It’s night, it’s snowing, we’re in a forest, the guitar is the icicles hanging from the branches, the bass is the pulsing heart of the murderer, the pink frost is not the chill in his heart but the girl’s blood soaked into the snow, the murderer’s final gasp of "Oh no!" hangs crystallised in the cold air long after the song has finished.