Tag Archives: dogrel

Fontaines DC – A Hero’s Death

28 Sep

Fontaines DC burst onto the scene in 2019 with their rambunctious, near-perfect debut album Dogrel. The album’s mix of sneering punk, clever literary references and mesmerizing vocals won over many early fans, including us (as you might recall from our end-of-year lists). This summer, the Irish punk quarter returned with an engrossing, worthy follow-up called A Hero’s Death.

On the sophomore album, Fontaines DC keep their trademark self-confidence, but have somewhat smoothed out the edges. Fewer are the pub-fight-friendly tracks like “Big”; largely gone are the spoken-word punk bangers like “Hurricane Laughter”. A Hero’s Death was largely written on a massive global tour for Dogrel, and one can somewhat see the results. This album is more introspective, more cognizant of their growing fame, and perhaps a little dialed-down on the inimitable Irish-ness. Whether that’s a good thing or not depends on the listener.

If you’ve heard Dogrel, you’d have recognized the frequent mentions of America within lead singer Grian Chatten’s lyrics. The centuries-long migration pattern from Ireland to the United States seems to have made the latter a part of the Irish identity – not just for those who’ve left, but for those who stayed behind, too. Dogrel’s hit “Boys in the Better Land” centered on America as the titular “better land” that some folks in the old country still keep talking about.

On A Hero’s Death, “Living in America” adds another wrinkle to the Irish relationship to America: namely, the band’s own extensive tour through America and how it fits into the almost mythic Irish idea of the place. “We were kind of fascinated by that and fascinated by when we actually got to America and you travel across it, you do see that there is really a lot of inequality in a real way,” Chatten said on a recent interview. Fittingly, the track has the same kind of manic yet droning energy of a lot of hard-scrabble, dying American cities.

In fact, the band channels that same dissonance – between reality and imagination, between pre-fame life and post-fame life – on a few other tracks here. The album opener “I Don’t Belong” is a defiant rejection of the post-fame life, where Grian Chatten hypnotically repeats the phrase “I don’t belong to anyone” until all the layers stick with you. Screw you: they don’t want to belong to anyone. Too bad: they can’t belong to anyone. Mind yourself: they shouldn’t belong to anyone. Sadly: they don’t belong to anyone. “I Was Not Born” sounds like a song version of what the band may have precociously said to their tour managers; “I was not born into this world / To do another man’s bidding,” Chatten shouts in an echoing voice over incessant drums and guitars.

Although it’s just eleven songs long, A Hero’s Death takes the listener through many different moods and concepts. Right after the aforementioned brash “I Was Not Born” comes the wistful, sad-pop “Sunny” and the beautiful and gentle album closer “No”. Elsewhere, “Televised Mind” is a hypnotic extension of Dogrel’s “Television Screens” – a favorite theme of Fontaines DC regarding the decay of human thought in today’s consumerist society. “A Lucid Dream”, as the name suggests, is filled with trippy lines (“I was there / When the rain changed direction and fled to play tricks with your hair”) made tripper still with unpredictable volume modulations across verses and chorus.

Perhaps the best song on the album is, appropriately, the title track, which we’ve already spoken about extensively. Grian Chatten’s lyrics are intended to be satire on hypocritical, consumerist preaching, but they’ve accidentally come up with enough do-good edicts to start a small cult (we’re personally ready to sign up just with the line “Never let a clock tell you what you have time for”).

We had good things to say about all of the singles, and thankfully the rest of the album holds up too. A Hero’s Death may not be exactly similar to Dogrel, but it’s more multi-faceted and a little more grown-up in its outlook. Most importantly, it proves that there’s much more to Fontaines DC, and we can’t wait to see what’s next.

Best tracks: “A Hero’s Death”, “Televised Mind”, “A Lucid Dream”

Rating: 8.5/10

Fontaines D.C. – Dogrel

23 Dec

Fontaines D.C. are a punk band from Dublin, Ireland, whose five members met over a common love for Irish poets. On their debut album, Dogrel, every piece of that one-sentence biography rings loud, clear and omnipresent.

Dogrel does for Dublin what the Arctic Monkeys’ debut did for Sheffield: pulling back the curtain for a laddish, working-class look at a beloved hometown. Run through Dogrel from top to bottom, and you almost feel as though you’re right there in Dublin with the boys.  

There are so many great elements to the album that it’s frankly unbelievable to think that this is a debut. The most striking element is, of course, the high-energy instruments. Fontaines D.C. never take more than a few seconds to catch the listener’s attention, whether it’s the driving riffs on “Sha Sha Sha” or the wall-of-bass on “Hurricane Laughter”.

Another stand-out element is singer Grian Chatten’s vocals, blaring out blustering one-liners (“My childhood was small / Oh, but I’m gonna be big!”) in an unmistakable, irreverent and totally unapologetic Irish accent. In many songs, it’s this phrasing itself that takes center-stage. “If you’re a Rock Star, Porn Star, Superstar / Doesn’t matter what you are, get yourself a good car, get outta here,” Chatten proclaims on “Boys in the Better Land” – every word pronounced more authentically Irish than anything you’ve ever heard.

And of course, there’s the matter of the lyrics themselves – slice-of-life, working-class beat poetry about Dublin life. On “Liberty Belle”: “You know I love that violence that you get around here / That kind of ready-steady violence, that violent ‘How do you do?’”. On “Too Real”: “The winter evening settles down, the bruised and beat up open sky, six o’clock / The city in its final dress, and now a gusty shower wraps the grimy scraps”. With Dogrel, the lads tip their hats to Yeats, Joyce et al in talking about their city – all set to cheeky punk rock. (Unsurprisingly, the album takes its name from doggerel, a jagged style of spoken-word poetry.)

Finally – and this is the most impressive one – the greatest part of Dogrel is that it is chock-full of hits from top to bottom. There are honestly decades-old bands that haven’t mastered the ability to combine authenticity, killer tunes and timeless lyrics into one package, and Fontaines D.C. did it on their first try.

Dogrel is perhaps the best debut of the year, and we highly recommend you give it a listen.

Best tracks: “Big”, “Boys in the Better Land”, “Sha Sha Sha”

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