Grian Chatten has said “every part” of his debut solo album, ‘Chaos For The Fly’ “from the chord progressions to the string arrangements,” came to him while walking along the beach in a seaside town thirty miles north of Dublin. As album opener ‘The Score’s acoustic guitar trickles in and Chatten sings evenly, “I am that wave that breaks below /I will give you thrills and take your pain” his tone dropping to sinister octaves before harmonizing his hums with the strings backing him. His account that the album “came to me on the waves” immediately feels believable.
The Fontaines D.C. frontman wrote the ‘Chaos For The Fly’ while on tour for the Irish band’s critically-acclaimed third album ‘Skinty Fia’. The follow-up to 2020’s Grammy-nominated ‘A Hero’s Death’ and 2019’s Mercury-nominated ‘Dogrel’ topped charts and set the band out on an arduous touring cycle. The relentlessness wore on Chatten, driving him to what he told NME were “fits of anxiety and rage”, pushing him to lock himself in rooms in the middle of soundcheck.
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Somehow, amid the emotional onslaught, he made space to create nine tracks, co-producing them with longtime Fontaines collaborator Dan Carey (Wet Leg, Black Midi, Foals) and recording them in just two weeks. Chatten’s debut may be a sonic departure from the post-punk-laden tracks of the band he fronts. However, his peerless, honest lyricism and distinct vocals are still recognisable on top of a mixture of glittering synths, wispy acoustic guitars, and layers of ethereal strings.
‘Last Time Every Time Forever’s pop soundscapes unravel into rattling percussion and sinister strings as Chatten sings about what he called a drury “hellscape town of your own making” questioning the world he’s created with the words, “Am I the wingless one?/ That keeps me here?” In ‘All Of The People’, the writer doesn’t mince words, pointing his lyrical aim at humanity, noting that everyone is a liar. The sombre song is riddled with pointed observations, as he sings “I’m hard as my money / Yeah, you’re soft as a lie” at one point and “You think that you love me but you don’t” at another, his voice nearly bare against the subtle instrumentation behind him.
‘Fairlies’ is a perfect example of Chatten’s intense songwriting, as he notes, “kindness is a tick to turn you strange” and wonders “baby do you miss the days before hope knocked on your door?” while the production echoes his sentiments. Towards the end of the track, the instruments intermingle, a clashing of strings and piano keys as the tempo increases, lifting towards a cathartic sonic release before falling back into silence. Throughout each track, the ‘Chaos For The Fly’s orchestration acts like a second voice, pushing forward moody moments an assisting him in illuminating the darkest corners of his mind with climbing walls of sound engulfing his painstakingly poetic writing.
As the saying goes: “what is normal to the spider is chaos to the fly”. In the disarray of anxiety, touring and being thrust into the unrelenting bright light of fame, Chatten found a semblance of balance by channelling acute discomfort into a stirring, spotless debut, and what he excavated from the biting darkness is not only beautiful but promising.
- Release date: June 30
- Record label: Partisan Records