I Tell a Fly

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I Tell a Fly
I Tell A Fly.jpeg
Studio album by Benjamin Clementine
Released 29 September 2017
Recorded 2016–2017
  • RAK Studios, (London)
  • Abbey Road Studios, (London)
  • Studio 13, (London)
Length 45:00
Label Behind / Virgin EMI
Producer Benjamin Clementine
Benjamin Clementine chronology
At Least for Now
I Tell a Fly
Singles from I Tell a Fly
  1. "Phantom of Aleppoville"
    Released: 30 May 2017
  2. "God Save the Jungle"
    Released: 26 June 2017
  3. "Jupiter"
    Released: 23 August 2017

I Tell a Fly is the second album by English artist and poet Benjamin Clementine. It follows his Mercury Prize-winning debut album, At Least for Now.[1] According to a press release, the album was written and produced by Clementine, recorded at RAK Studios, Abbey Road Studios and Studio 13. It was released on 29 September 2017 in Europe[2] and 2 October in the United States.[3]


After his collaboration with Gorillaz on "Hallelujah Money",[4] Clementine unveiled his first new music since being awarded 2015's Mercury Music Prize for his debut album At Least for Now accompanied by a video shot by photographer Craig McDean and filmmaker Masha Vasyukova,[5] In conversation with David Renshaw, Clementine explains the origin of I Tell a Fly lies in a disarmingly strange line found in his American visa: "an alien of extraordinary abilities." He explains, "I was baffled for about ten minutes when I first saw that visa. But then I thought to myself, I am an alien. I'm a wanderer. In most places I've been, I've always been different. And so I began to think about the story of a couple of birds, who are in love: one is afraid to go further, and the other is taking a risk, to see what happens." On I Tell a Fly, Clementine uses his personal history as a prism through which to view the world around him (and attempt to make sense of both), musically exploring unknown territories while maintaining a lifeblood that could not be mistaken for the work of anyone other than him.[6]

Musical style and themes[edit]

"I was baffled for about ten minutes when I first saw that visa. But then I thought to myself, I am an alien. I'm a wanderer. In most places I've been, I've always been different. And so I began to think about the story of a couple of birds, who are in love: one is afraid to go further, and the other is taking a risk, to see what happens."

— Clementine, on the album's theme and content[6]

Written, recorded and produced by Clementine, I Tell a Fly finds him exploring new musical territory on the heels of his Mercury Prize-winning debut, At Least for Now (2015). At Least for Now stretched itself across a series of piano ballads with unorthodox structures; I Tell a Fly brings a sense of theatricality and power by using whirling, interwoven instruments throughout the uncompromising release. While At Least for Now looked inward and backward, Clementine's follow-up looks outward and forward-to a changing world, ancient struggles and the individual response.[7] Clementine composed the track "Phantom of Aleppoville" after being affected by the writing of pioneering British psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott.[8] He wrote extensively about children who have experienced bullying in the home and at school, discovering that while the trauma was naturally not comparable in scale to that suffered by children displaced by war, its effects followed similar patterns. Seeing in Winicott's writing a mirror of his own childhood experiences, Clementine chose the title – the "little city of Aleppo" – to symbolise a place where children encounter such bullying. Says Clementine, "Aleppoville is a place where many are bullied if not all, but no one understands nor see why; Phantom."[9] "God Save the Jungle" was released ahead of the album, and was called "eccentric and sardonic" by The Fader.[3] It was written in New York City and recorded at RAK Studios in London.[3] The Fader said the album "shows Clementine stretching the autobiographical lyrical style used on his debut to incorporate current events, touching on the refugee crisis and the war in Syria among other subjects."[3] Clementine also explained to The Fader how being in the United States during the 2016 election campaign influenced the political aspects of the album: "I was writing about what's going on. It turned into what I was really trying to say, which was that I'm an alien. Not in the most superficial, arrogant fashion, but rather an alien who wanders around. It fits the current dilemma that we all face. It was mostly to do with the traveling. The feeling of not belonging to somewhere, just being a mere traveler, being an alien."[3] The guardian Kate Mossman states that On I Tell a Fly, Clementine takes the unusual decision to work his own narrative of displacement into various settings of international conflict: his nomadic path, versus the plight of refugees in Calais There is a chewy song called Paris Cor Blimey, based on the tongue-twister, Peter Piper, about nationalism in France: “Paris’s friend got her little Pen from her daddy before he left.” And the flies? They’re wind-battered lovers looking for a safe haven.[10]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Review scores
AllMusic4/5 stars[13]
The Independent4/5 stars[14]
The Line of Best Fit8.5/10[15]
Mojo4/5 stars[16]
Q Magazine4/5 stars[17]
Record Collector4/5 stars[18]
The Skinny4/5 stars[19]
MusicOMH4/5 stars[20]

I Tell a Fly was well-received by contemporary music critics upon its initial release. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100 to reviews from music critics, the album received a universal acclaim score of 81 based on 12 reviews.[21]

In the review for AllMusic, Timothy Monger described the album as being "Meticulously packed with lead and backing vocals in a variety of timbres, songs like the warbling harpsichord-ornamented "Better Sorry Than a Safe" and the sprawling and kooky refugee crisis commentary "Phantom of Aleppoville" show an intense artist operating at a full sprint down the crooked ginnels of his imagination."[13] Andy Gill, writing a review for The Independent regarded the music as classical and avant-garde with operatic delivery, pointing out that, I Tell A Fly won’t be to everyone’s taste--which in this era of increasing conformity may be its most valuable asset.[22] Writing for The Skinny, Aiden Ryan noted that Clementine sounded wholly original. On I Tell a Fly, he offers stunning, stirring proof that his originality extends beyond his voice to his phrasing on every instrument he touches – piano, but also here, showcased to great effect, harpsichord and clavichord – as well as to arrangements and production. All of which conspires to pummel and purge every tired expectation that repetitive rap, rock, dance, pop, indie, and alternative music have wrought into us. Appropriately, the album opens with Farewell Sonata.[19] Simon Price from Q Magazine stated Anyone expecting an album of unchallenging fodder is in for a shock. Like the voyage faced by its desperate, stateless subjects, I Tell A Fly is no easy ride.[21]

In a less enthusiastic review for The Guardian, Alexis Petridis said that Clementine clearly has things to say about some important topics, and it’s hard not to think they might reach a wider audience if they were a little less obliquely presented. Equally, there’s something laudable about an artist using their initial success not as a foundation for steady commercial growth but as leverage to get something like I Tell a Fly released and promoted by a major label.[23]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Benjamin Clementine.

1."Farewell Sonata"4:34
2."God Save the Jungle"3:15
3."Better Sorry Than a Safe"5:53
4."Phantom of Aleppoville"6:31
5."Paris Cor Blimey"4:23
7."Ode from Joyce"2:05
8."One Awkward Fish"4:13
9."By the Ports of Europe"3:41
11."Ave Dreamer"4:27
Total length:45:00


  • Benjamin Clementine – music, production, artwork
  • Alexis Bossard – drums
  • Steve Sedgwick – recording engineer and mixer
  • John Davis – mastering engineer
  • Max Anstruther – recording engineer
  • Wes Maebe – recording engineer
  • Robbie Nelson – recording engineer
  • Duncan Fuller – assistant recording engineer
  • Craig Mcdean – photography
  • Akatre – design


Chart (2017) Peak
Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)[24] 30
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Flanders)[25] 56
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Wallonia)[26] 33
French Albums (SNEP)[27] 24
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[28] 68
Portuguese Albums (AFP)[29] 3
Scottish Albums (OCC)[30] 96
Spanish Albums (PROMUSICAE)[31] 92
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)[32] 23


  1. ^ "Benjamin Clementine". facebook.com. Retrieved 28 June 2017. 
  2. ^ "I Tell A Fly by Benjamin Clementine on Apple Music". iTunes Store (GB). Retrieved 15 September 2017. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "Benjamin Clementine On How Global Politics Shaped His Experimental Second Album". The FADER. Retrieved 28 June 2017. 
  4. ^ "Hear Gorillaz' First Song in Six Years, 'Hallelujah Money'". rollingstone.com. Retrieved 28 June 2017. 
  5. ^ Vogue.ua. "Как снимали новый клип Бенджамина Клементина - Vogue Ukraine". vogue.ua. Retrieved 28 June 2017. 
  6. ^ a b Desk, BWW News. "Benjamin Clementine Announces New Album 'I Tell a Fly'". broadwayworld.com. Retrieved 28 June 2017. 
  7. ^ Desk, BWW News. "Benjamin Clementine Shares 'Jupiter' from New Album Out 10/2". 
  8. ^ "Listen: Benjamin Clementine – 'Phantom Of Aleppoville'". clashmusic.com. Retrieved 1 June 2017. 
  9. ^ "Rock Show: Benjamin Clementine – Rockshot Music Magazine". rockshot.co.uk. 30 May 2017. Retrieved 1 June 2017. 
  10. ^ Mossman, Kate (27 August 2017). "Benjamin Clementine: 'I make people believe in me'" – via www.theguardian.com. 
  11. ^ "25 by Benjamin Clementine reviews". Any Decent Music. Retrieved 26 September 2017. 
  12. ^ "Reviews and Tracks for I Tell a Fly by Benjamin Clementine". Metacritic. Retrieved 22 September 2017. 
  13. ^ a b Monger, Timothy. "I Tell A Fly - Benjamin Clementine | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. 
  14. ^ Gill, Andy. "Album reviews: Benjamin Clementine - I Tell A Fly, Foo Fighters - Concrete And Gold, Yusuf/Cat Stevens - The Laughing Apple". The Independent. Retrieved 22 September 2017. 
  15. ^ Idelji-Tehrani, Saam. "The alluring drama and unpredictability of Benjamin Clementine's I Tell a Fly". The Line of Best Fit. Retrieved 22 September 2017. 
  16. ^ "I Tell a Fly". Mojo: 91. October 2017. 
  17. ^ "I Tell a Fly". Q: 101. October 2017. 
  18. ^ Waring, Charles. "BENJAMIN CLEMENTINE - I TELL A FLY". Record Collector. Retrieved 22 September 2017. 
  19. ^ a b "Benjamin Clementine - I Tell A Fly album review: The Skinny". 
  20. ^ "Benjamin Clementine – I Tell A Fly - Album Reviews - musicOMH". www.musicomh.com. 
  21. ^ a b "I Tell a Fly by Benjamin Clementine". 
  22. ^ "Album reviews: Benjamin Clementine, Foo Fighters, and more". 13 September 2017. 
  23. ^ Petridis, Alexis (28 September 2017). "Benjamin Clementine: I Tell a Fly review – the difficult second album" – via www.theguardian.com. 
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  26. ^ "Ultratop.be – Benjamin Clementine – I Tell a Fly" (in French). Hung Medien. Retrieved 7 October 2017.
  27. ^ "Lescharts.com – Benjamin Clementine – I Tell a Fly". Hung Medien. Retrieved 10 October 2017.
  28. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – Benjamin Clementine – I Tell a Fly" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  29. ^ "Portuguesecharts.com – Benjamin Clementine – I Tell a Fly". Hung Medien. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  30. ^ "Official Scottish Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 7 October 2017.
  31. ^ "Spanishcharts.com – Benjamin Clementine – I Tell a Fly". Hung Medien. Retrieved 12 October 2017.
  32. ^ "Swisscharts.com – Benjamin Clementine – I Tell a Fly". Hung Medien. Retrieved 11 October 2017.