ALBUM REVIEW: Grian Chatten - Chaos for the Fly
Chatten cements his position as one of the best songwriters around
How do you follow up three critically acclaimed albums in four years with your band? Take a break? Work on album number 4? Not so for Grian Chatten, who decided to embark on a first solo album just a year after what many consider his band's greatest work in Skinty Fia.
Arguably, this was a risky move with Fontaines D.C. establishing themselves as one of the big rock bands in the UK and Ireland. But this leftfield move pays off spectacularly with Chatten's prolific purple patch finding an excellent new vehicle for his poetic lyrics.
Trading the indie/post-punk stylings of Fontaines for something far more stripped back and hopping between folk ditties and chamber pop, the freshness of the project calls to mind the boldness and excitement of his band's first record, Dogrel.
The lyrics may be less wide-eyed, but they are never less than compelling and compositions bringing together trumpets, synth, violins and an accordion makes for a varied and enjoyable musical palette.
Chaos for the Fly's nine tracks clock in at just over 30 minutes, but unlike other albums with a similar run time, there's valuable depth in the record and it doesn't feel too short.
Opener 'The Score' features gorgeous plucked acoustic guitar with subtle electronic percussion and xylophone in the chorus and hints at the end of a relationship with the refrain of "you know the score, it ain't limited to your knowing looks and touches anymore".
Photo credit: Polocho
This is followed by 'Last Time Every Time Forever' with its pleasing chamber pop intro, soaring strings and the first of three vocal contributions from Chatten's partner, Georgie Jesson. The lyrics focus on roguish regulars in a bar and looking back at a moment in time as the song sounds like a The Good, The Bad and The Queen effort.
Melancholy is omnipresent throughout, with third track and third of three singles in a row, 'Fairlies' signalling Chatten's ease within his own company with a violin and acoustic guitar marrying together beautifully.
'Salt Throwers off a Truck' is as stripped back as it gets with folk lyrics and acoustic guitar joined for company only by a violin in a demonstration of Chatten's prowess as an artist with few tools at his disposal; 'Season for Pain' again shows shades of The Good, The Bad and The Queen in its acoustic guitar playing, and is lifted by an electric guitar cameo halfway through before its thrilling crescendo; and 'All of the People' sees Chatten at his most bitter and misanthropic over a sad piano tune: "you think you know me, you're below me and you don't".
'East Coast Bed' uses an Eastern-world style guitar hook, with Chatten's "an East Coast bed" refrain the most he's sounded like Oasis-era Liam Gallagher and a trumpet and synth lifting the track and its broody atmosphere. 'I Am So Far' creates a depressing soundscape through its piano and acoustic guitar, with electronic drums and an accordion joining the mix, along with Jesson's harmonies, Chatten singing: "seeking only answers, hearing only lies".
Only 'Bob's Casino' doesn't quite the high standards set by the rest, but is an enjoyable song in itself which could easily fit into Arctic Monkeys's recent lounge-rock canon.
A night-time walk along a seafront 30 miles north of Dublin inspired the endeavour - an advert for walking if nothing else!
Fontaines D.C. are firmly ensconced in the world of rock and on the evidence of Chaos for the Fly, the gentler, folkier, poppier end of the musical spectrum now has an exciting new voice to hail.
Chaos for the Fly is out this Friday (30 June) via Partisan Records