Fontaines D.C. Are Gonna be Big: Dogrel Review
by Erin Christie
Irish post-punk group, Fontaines D.C. could easily take any other band in their category by the collar. The five-piece- comprised of members Grian Chatten (vox), Conor Deegan III (bass), Carlos O’Connell (guitar), Conor Curley, (guitar) and Ton Coll (drums)- is notably one of the biggest acts to come out of Dublin since Hozier. With their new record, Dogrel, released on April 12 via Partisan Records, they absolutely do the Emerald Isle justice. Noted by The Guardian as a “perfect debut,” writer Ben Beaumont-Thomas hits the nail on the head.
Dogrel approaches post-punk in a manner similar to bands such as Shame, Idles, Fat White Family, and others from the EU. Despite their similarities to other bands in the genre, they somehow set themselves apart: they’re hardly as aggressive, yet just as (if not more) expressive and brutally blunt. The record, marked with legendary singles such as guitar-heavy “Hurricane Laughter” and violently charming “Liberty Belle,” is entirely eclectic but flows seamlessly. They combine post-punk hallmarks with reverb-drenched garage and surf rock calling cards, creating a unique concoction that manages not to taste sour. The track “Television Screens,” for example, is a chill-inducing call-out to early 80s punk riffing, and with that considered, it sticks out as one of my personal favorites on the record (despite its bleak commentary on the state of ruin our world is in). There’s a harshness to how raw their material is, and that just draws listeners like me even closer to them, like moths to a flame.
Combining snappy lyrics with booming bass and shrill cymbals, Fontaines D.C. presents an emotion-packed addition to this year’s Irish musical exports. “It feels nice to wear our Irishness on our sleeves because it’s a voice that’s been shouted over for hundreds and hundreds of years,” lead singer Grian Chatten said in an interview with PASTE. Throughout the entire record, Fontaines D.C. calls upon specifics associated with the Irish punk scene that their English counterparts haven’t touched. “Dublin City Sky,” for example, is a letter to the place where they gather their namesake (the D.C. in their band name being an acronym for Dublin City)— but it’d be a falsity not to also mention their criticisms of the city they love present throughout the LP.
This record is brutally realistic, creating world commentary especially in track, “Chequeless Reckless”— “A sell-out is someone who becomes a hypocrite in the name of money,” Chatten states, and he continues to dish out more bold-faced judgments toward idiots, phonies, and dilettantes. “Money is the sandpit of the soul,” he continues, a statement that would make Marx smile from across the grave. They turn a critical mirror on their homeland, “a pregnant city with a Catholic mind,” noting the absolute worst of the worst first-hand accounts that they’ve had. After all, who can claim to ascribe to a “punk” lifestyle and not hate their hometown at least a little bit?
The lyricism is only part of what makes this record so brilliant; Chatten’s speak-sing style of delivery sticks out like a sore thumb (but hardly in a negative way). His preacher-esque manner of tone sits somewhere in the mid-ground between a howl and a monotonous recitation and this somehow makes the words he sings pack an even harder punch. He is like a Shakespearean actor, clutching Yorick’s skull and reciting an extensive soliloquy, backed by a power-packed band to boot. Needless to say, Chatten shouting “Is it too real for ya?,” the refrain for the track “Too Real,” plays on a constant loop in my mind at a concerning frequency.
Despite being little-known at the moment, with the power behind Dogrel and a few tricks up their sleeves, Fontaines D.C. is sure to ascend to new heights within the next few months. Lead single, “Big,” is a foretelling prophecy: “My childhood was small/ but I’m gonna be big,” Chatten boasts, and with a record as fantastic as this, it’d be criminal if they didn’t become a world-class sensation.
Fontaines D.C. is heading out on their first U.S. headliner this fall (with a stop in Boston on September 8 at Great Scott): keep an eye out for when they’ll be somewhere near you!