(Partisan Records, out Fri 12 Apr 2019)
Authenticity. As our televisions broadcast the perpetual dumpster fire of Brexit and political charlatans heap lie upon lie, we need it more than ever. And lo, thirty seconds into Dogrel, the debut album from Fontaines DC, it arrives with the brutal force of a spear tackle – “my childhood was small, but I’m gonna be big”. It’s an ambitious statement of intent, but this isn’t an exercise in hollow arrogance. Rather, it’s the latest thrust in the remarkable rise to prominence of a band that roared into life two years ago and hasn’t taken a backwards step since.
Let’s get one thing straight (and I don’t say this lightly), there isn’t a weak track on here. From the breakneck debut single Liberty Belle, introducing us to the intricacies of the Irish approach to casual violence, to Hurricane Laughter, possessive of a bassline that sounds like it would kill you if you got too close, this isn’t just tearing down the plaster. No. This is about kneecapping the very bedrock of expectation. You could be forgiven for harbouring concerns when so much of a debut album is already familiar, operating at an impossibly high bar. Yet nothing can deaden the raw exhilaration of hearing those early releases in the context of this collective vision.
It’s immediately apparent that these guys aren’t pissing around. Big wades in on the back of clattering drums and the visceral drawl of singer Grian Chatten, before the jangly, jagged Sha Sha Sha, a London’s Calling for the here and now, reminds us that “there’s always gonna be tears”. And that’s the thing. It’s not about sparing your feelings or blowing smoke up your arse. These songs leave you in no doubt that there’s going to be bother, that the DC’s kind of mess is ingrained in the pavements or under their fingernails, the nagging throb of certainty that a towering tide of shite is just around the corner.
The immediacy of the music is infectious but underpinning everything is a side-eyed self-awareness that in a society hurtling forward at such a rate, tradition and the voices of real people are being left behind. The imperious Chequeless Reckless holds up a mirror to phoney culture and lifts the curtain on the inexorable rise of capitalism, laying waste to hypocrisy and false sentiment with crunching guitars and spat out lyrics of the calibre of “a dilettante is someone who cannot tell the difference between fashion and style”. Every bit is relevant.
The beauty of all this is how the band flits between the sound of bone-gnawing frustration and balls-out joy with such a delicate touch and wry humour. Roy’s Tune is a beautiful, swirling lament to youth, blinking back tears of regret, while the boisterous Boys In The Better Land flicks two fingers up at you while bouncing along like a pissed-up mate. Even when taking a jackhammer to your hopes and desires, as in album closer Dublin City Sky, the band still manages to remain poetic and true to itself, with a thumping heart that keeps time, pulsing relentlessly throughout.
It’s the sound of an unshakeable commitment to document what’s real and what’s not, to call out shit chat at every opportunity. Music to contemptuously yank at the tail of the Celtic Tiger. It’s the voice of a disaffected youth wrestling the keys to its own future from an older generation that blew its chance. That’s mine, gimme it. Now piss off.
Is that too real for ya?