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Grian Chatten Chaos For The Fly

The Fontaines D.C. vocalist's richly melancholic debut solo album delivers sweet pain and sour beauty. Album of the Year contender? Yes.

Released: 30 June 2023
Chaos For The Fly

We've all been there, haven't we? The trip out to a seaside town. We go with high hopes, but despite the initial glitter and glam, the neon veneer is easily scratched away to lay bare the faded glamour of a forgotten town, where the haunted cry of seagulls drowns out the ever-present electronic soundtrack of fruit machines.

Grian Chatten, vocalist with award-winning Irish titans Fontaines D.C, took inspiration for his debut LP Chaos For The Fly from such a resort – one located 30 miles north of Dublin, where the rusted promenade and omnipresent crack of pool balls from the lounge bar provided the alchemy for nine glorious tracks.

“I was walking along Stoney Beach at night and it came to me on the waves,” recalls Chatten. “I just stood there and looked at them and I heard the whole fucking thing. Every part of it, from the chord progressions to the string arrangements.”

Co-produced by Fontaines D.C. producer Dan Carey, Chatten says this emotional songwriting vision demanded that he publish solo and not re-shape his songs for the band. “I just thought: I want to do this myself. I know where we as a band are going next and that’s not where I want to go with this. I’ve got a couple of exaggerated aspects of my soul that I wanted to express.”

Both lead single 'The Score' and follow-up 'Fairlies' draw on sardonic observation and barely hidden emotional wounding, exemplified by the lines, "You know the score / It ain't limited to your / knowing looks and touches any more," in the former and, "Anger makes you weak and turns you sick / And gets you in the six foot nice and quick," in the latter.

Latest single 'Last Time, Every Time, Forever' neatly captures the melancholic aura of quiet desperation and its cousin, the dark underbelly of isolation, with the heart wrenching line, "Without a chance I'm king / Of every single thing / And it's the cheapest spend / To make a dead heart sing."

'Bob's Casino' is a mini soap opera in itself, capturing that acute attention to small but intimate emotional detail that allows Chatten to peel away the thin layers of humanity: "You could talk about the finer things / You could talk about the minor things."

That forensic human focus runs like a thread through tracks including album highlight 'All Of The People' ("What kind of fool / Would follow signs that were never there?") and 'Salt Throwers Off A Truck' ("He felt too deeply, too often, too long / And now he'll feel nothing forever.")

But it's closer 'Season For Pain' that coalesces the raw gravitas and heft that Chatten holds so well, in a bittersweet tale that seeps melancholia from its pores: "If you have nowhere to go / Get used to the rain / I doubt you'll find what you're looking for / I doubt the feeling will remain / This is no season for loving / This is the season for pain."

Lyrical strength is a critical pillar of this fantastic album, alongside Chatten's unique voice and the brilliant musicianship and emotional honesty portrayed in painting the threadbare glamour and hidden despair of a broken seaside town. These deeply personal reflections showcase Chatten's incredible ability to paint sonic pictures using surgically crafted dabs of lyrical paint.

Album of the Year contender? From what I've heard so far in 2023, the answer is a very firm yes.

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