The Fontaines D.C. singer's solo album earns its place amongst the material he's produced with his bandmates. Neil Renton reviews Grian Chatten's solo debut.
It took me a while to get into Fontaines DC. Two albums and a gig to be precise.
While I'd heard all the reports about their electrifying post-punk live performances in which they'd made a reputation as one of the best bands around I eventually caught up with their debut album Dogrel a bit after its release. Coupled with a time I was desperate to get fit, my abiding memories of their music was peddling furiously to 'Boys In The Better Town' on an exercise bike. Not a great time for me to be honest. And I wasn't much of a fan.
Then came the follow-up in the brooding shape of A Hero's Death. Darker, deeper than its predecessor, more introverted but better for it. I suddenly started to pick up more from their first release while appreciating what the Beach Boys-influenced second effort gave. I couldn't work out how they'd be able to pair the two sets of material in front of an audience but they did so in arresting fashion one Friday night in Edinburgh. And with that I was enamoured.
Skinty Fia their third album released in four years found them at the peak of their powers. Maturing to the type of act that could dominate the world, they also got political for the first time, especially with 'I Love You.'
This brings us to Chaos For The Fly, the debut solo album from Grain Chatten - the bands' frontman. For a group that had toured extensively so much in a relatively short period of time, you could believe the rumours of strained relations at certain points as the band played and partied with the best of them. Maybe he needed a breather. What could he deliver on his own is the question.
And the answer is a solo album that earns its place amongst the material he's produced with his bandmates.
Fontaines were a band that sounded fantastic in their own right and also when being , think of the Soulwax retelling of 'A Hero's Death.' That's why the opening song on his debut is a welcome relief as it's got a slight distorted beat to it. "You know the score," Chatten warns us. We don't. He's taking us in a different direction.
'Last Time Every Time Forever' is another side step with it's layers of strings evoking a lush atmosphere. One of the albums best tracks is the first single that dropped from it. 'Fairlies' is perhaps the closest to what you'd expect from the lead singer of Fontaines, has an anthemic uplifting chorus that flows through an ode to life and death. "How come life comes so slowly and death comes so fast?" The question catches you off guard and makes you reflect on your own mortality before Chatten leaves us with the optimistic "But I've got one more song."
His finance Georgie Jesson provides guests vocals and adds another dimension to the whole creation. 'Bob's Casino' finds Chatten in a laid-back Johnny Cash growl of a mood while Jesson contributes an uplifting, gentler element to it all.
There's a yearning to discover how his songs will translate in front of a gig. 'Salt Throwers off a Truck' could easily be sung back to him by a passionate crowd in a tiny venue or on a massive festival stage. 'All Of The People' is a sparse track, it's stripped back sentiment designed to take the breath away of even the most hardened gathering.
Final track 'Season For Pain' tops it all off in a striking manner. A slow build before a harder interior is exposed brings to mind grunge before he pulls the rug from our feet with hip-hop infused ending.
At nine songs it's slight for an album but that's a minor complaint. There's enough on here to make you look forward to both another solo outing while wondering what the next Fontaines D.C. record is going to sound like.
He's remarkably prolific so it probably won't be long before we find out. And hopefully I won't be trying to lose weight when it appears.
The album cover feature Chatten topless, brave, arms outstretched, staring upwards. Judging by his debut solo album and the material he’s already built up with Fontaines D.C., he’s got every reason to be looking up.