Mick Flannery: Night at the Opera review – sombre vignettes inspired by chess

Flannery assigns chords to chess pieces and plays out the patterns

Night at the Opera
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Artist: Mick Flannery
Genre: Singer / Songwriter
Label: Self-released

There are two tricky concepts at the heart of Mick Flannery’s latest release: chess and NFTs (non-fungible tokens). It’s surprising that Flannery is among the first of Ireland’s musicians to take the plunge into the latter, but at the risk of music pages becoming debate-spaces on the viability of crypto for artists, let’s just say that the jury remains very much out.

The chess aspect is, thankfully, much more interesting. Flannery, whose father introduced him to chess by way of the game’s greatest clashes, decided to set some of these historic games to music by assigning chords to pieces and playing out the patterns.

The majority are short, piano-led, mournful tunes that marry movements on the chessboard with overarching thematic explorations of the players’ lives. Take Your Beating Well is based on world number one Adolf Anderssen losing his title in Paris, 1858: “I like to play the outlaw, I live just like a saint,” Flannery’s gravelly voice croons. I’ll Learn To See creeps along similarly with the addition of strings, while Western Hero is a dark guitar and double bass exploration of Bobby Fischer’s “game of the century” against Donald Byrne in 1956.

Flannery’s emotive voice carries the project which risks being bogged down in wider conversations. The chess moves assigned to chords doesn’t distract from the sombre vignettes, but any longer and the progressions risk monotony. It is a beautiful game, however, explored well.

Andrea Cleary

Andrea Cleary is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in culture