It would be fair to say that no new band has made quite the impression that Fontaines D.C. has. The Dubliners depict Irish life through a synthesis of dirty post-punk and Joycean lyrics. The band’s new album, A Hero’s Death, follows on from their electrifying debut Dogrel, and while the band channel some of the energy Dogrel had, their new LP takes a slightly different route with more down-tempo and textured rhythms.
Fontaines D.C. are very conscious of their Irish identity and always trying to reflect that in their music. Grian Chatten’s strong accent cuts right through the sound, giving them a gritty authenticity. However, Chatten’s voice is a lot more melancholic on this album; the opening track ‘I Don’t Belong’ sees the band attempt to capture a feeling of pure isolation, but this is what makes it so captivating. This song sees the band take a dark route, and the atmospheric riffs give the track an enigma that evokes a deep romanticism. The lyrics add a nihilistic mood; Chatten sings “just dying for a cause”, lyrics which ironically confront grandiose questions of the meaning of life.
The band’s influences are clearer on A Hero’s Death. A strong presence of Joy Division lingers throughout, particularly on the tracks ‘Love is the Main Thing’ and ‘I Was Not Born’. Chatten’s voice on ‘Love is the Main Thing’ turns into an Ian Curtis style drawl that is mesmerising in its delivery. The riffs are atmospheric and give it a whirlwind feeling, which is also reflected in the opening drum beat, with pathetic fallacy as Chatten sings “it always be raining”.
‘I Was Not Born’ has more of a simple structure than the layered feel of ‘Love is the Main Thing’, it goes back to post-punk origins, evoking later Joy Division and even further back to the likes of The Velvet Underground, whose rattily riffs are matched by Fontaines D.C. guitarists, Carlos O’Connell and Conor Curley. More diverse influences include Leonard Cohen on the melodic ‘Oh Such a Spring’, which balances post-punk with melodic pop.
The standout singles ‘Televised Mind’ and ‘A Hero’s Death’ prove that Fontaines D.C. haven’t completely abandoned the excitement of Dogrel. ‘A Hero’s Death’ possesses a rebellious spirit and moreover, it depicts a self-reflective portrait that reaches every nook and cranny of human consciousness. ‘Televised Mind’ too evokes the storm and stress that appeared on Dogrel tracks such as ‘Hurricane Laughter’ and ‘Too Real’. The riffs are sharp and looming and carry a larger presence than Chatten’s vocals, through no fault of Chatten.
A Hero’s Death clarifies that Fontaines D.C. are going from strength to strength. Despite their change of musical direction, this album shows that they are mature enough to make difficult decisions. Their music is still gripping, philosophical and charming all at the same time. Fontaines D.C. have captured a difficult but powerful portrait of youth that has plenty of fire in the belly.
Words by Lewis Oxley
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