The Fontains DC frontman has been popping up on other records for the last couple of years, so when I heard his distinctive vocals on BBC 6Music in the tempered, quiet track ‘The Score’ I thought he had been working on something interesting with Leftfield/Soulwax again, turns out it was his first release as a solo artist.
Chattern is still very much part of Fontaines, this album was conceived and written in a break from touring their last release, the brilliant Skinty Fia. The whole LP was recorded in just two weeks with longtime collaborator Dan Carey on production duties. Apparently, it came to him fully formed as he was walking along a beach in Ireland, which is impressive considering how good it is.
The record is quite a departure from the beautiful racket created by Fontaines, a little more acoustic, a few synths, and a generous sprinkling of strings and brass. ‘Fairlies’ is probably the closest to a DC track but even this is more restrained than the majority of songs on ‘Dogrel’, ‘A Hero’s Death’ or ‘Fia’.
Elsewhere, on ‘Bobs Casino’ he goes all Johnny Cash meets Andy Williams complete with a country beat, soaring strings and angelic backing from his fiancée Georgie Jesson.
‘Salt Throwers Of A Truck’ is a classic Irish folk number, full of acoustic guitars and fiddles. It could almost be a cliche if it wasn’t so damn good.
Chatten’s distinctive baritone seems to fit this quieter, more restrained direction. It is a bit Leonard Cohen in places, albeit with a pronounced Irish twang, and it helps focus on his often dark, vivid, lyrics.
If you like Fontaines for their raw power, you may feel short-changed with this record, it isn’t that kind of album. It is downbeat, restrained but utterly compelling. Definitely another that gets better with each listen.
If you fancy a copy it is available on white or traditional vinyl for about £23 all over the internet.
Tracks To Try: ‘The Score’, Fairlies’, ‘Salt Throwers Of A Truck’, ‘Season For Pain’.