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Robert Chaney: Cracked Picture Frames

Bloody but unbowed, Chaney’s debut tells disturbing stories from the dark side.

You’d be forgiven for not pulling up the chair next to Robert Chaney at a dinner party. To say his gaze is baleful is to underestimate it somewhat, though it’s worth working your way past the cheerless façade to songs that are the lyrical equivalent of a motorway pile-up – grotesque, but you can’t look away.

Which is not to deny them their fragile beauty: stripped back they may be, but they have a grace and ear for a story much missed among most contemporary songwriters. Chaney has the ruddy charm of a two-bit Raymond Carver, plus it helps that he’s clearly heartbroken. At his best, he’s exceptional, especially when he’s driving home the lyrics from a song like The Morning After: ’And though you show you’re fond in part, I do believe to own your heart, is something just like trying to own the seasons.’

Philip Wilding is a novelist, journalist, scriptwriter, biographer and radio producer. As a young journalist he criss-crossed most of the United States with bands like Motley Crue, Kiss and Poison (think the Almost Famous movie but with more hairspray). More latterly, he’s sat down to chat with bands like the slightly more erudite Manic Street Preachers, Afghan Whigs, Rush and Marillion.