There’s a certain romance when a band uses their city as a muse; as if to graffiti your ears with romantic tales of urban decay, doe-eyed escapism and palpable frustration. Fontaines D.C have Dublin as their blank, metropolitan canvas and their rampant, wiry debut LP ‘Dogrel’ as a spray can. This is an album that brings the Irish city to life, as the plucky five piece take you on a journey through rain-soaked streets, violent encounters and a reassured confidence that comes from struggle.
‘Big’ not so much pushes you onto the Irish capital’s pavements but gives you an almighty shove as the song pounces into action via a frantic volley of drums and a chugging bass throb. The rapid urgency is mirrored by a cheese wire thin guitar line and vocalist, Grian Chatten’s, Irish brogue as the frontman proclaims “Dublin in the rain is mine/a pregnant city with a catholic mind” with a demeanour that oozes cool. With a clenched fist, Chatten firmly states “my childhood was small/but I’m gonna be big” like a man who’s tasted misfortune but is vehemently spitting it out. Once you’ve clambered to your feet after ‘Big’s boisterous introduction to ‘Dogrel’, the LP twists and turns through where Fontaines D.C. call home, with Chatten’s rich delivery and illustrative words painting vivid pictures in your mind. ‘Roy’s Tune’ dials down the post-punk intensity for a moment, to usher in drummed pitter-patters and a new wave shimmer of guitar as the frontman drawls “the breeze in the night-time would kill you stone dead” with a tangible shudder. ‘Liberty Belle’ kicks you in the teeth with some raucous rock ‘n’ roll, with Chatten punctuating the playful aggro-nature of the track with his own nod to wanton fisticuffs “you know I love that violence that you get around here/that kind of ready-steady-violence.” A starkness cocoons ‘The Lotts’, the moment on ‘Dogrel’ where icy, mechanical rhythms project an indie-film cinematic bent; the flashes of dimly lit streets, casting shadows against brutalist tenement blocks crawl past your mind’s eye with Chatten observing the track’s protagonist “Lott’s on the corner/she ain’t ever coming down.” Channelling urgent rock ‘n’ roll, ‘Boys in the Better Land’ looks to quench a thirst for escapism; Propelled by a perpetual motion, the group’s mouthpiece bellows “if you’re rockstar/pornstar/superstar/doesn’t matter what you are/get yourself a good car/and get outta here.” ‘Dogrel’
comes to an emotional finale via the Irish folk song indebted trill of ‘Dublin City Sky’ with Chatten’s Irish tones at their very best. We’re transported to “some old bar in China Town” as Fontaines D.C. project the sepia- tinged images of a heaving pub swaying in time, Guinness’s in hand as “the boys are full of laughter” but knowing that a little touch of chaos isn’t too far away “we trip along disaster in the whirlwind of the free.”
Even when Dublin isn’t being explicitly referred to its ever-imposing silhouette is present; when the Irish lads fire through some of the more raucous tracks on ‘Dogrel’ you can feel a steely determination that’s bred from the Emerald Isle. ‘Too Real’s tense, staccato bombast is a rallying call for the disenfranchised with guitars that wail like air raid sirens. There’s a confrontational glimmer in its eye as Chatten barks “is it too real for ya” and “I’m about to make a lotta money.” Bolstered by a pent-up punk frustration, ‘Chequeless Reckless’ grinds and fuzzes with a wanton rage that’s mirrored by Chatten’s dressing down of anyone who has ideas above their station “a sell-out is someone who becomes an idiot in the name of money/an idiot is someone who lets their education do all their thinking/a phony is someone who demands respect for their principles that they effect” before plainly declaring “money is the sandpit of the soul.” Combining nimble post-punk trills and gnawing guitar ‘Television Screen’ contains one of the album’s most spiteful lyrics “you’re a cluster of nothing” while ‘Hurricane Laughter’s lingering danger makes you feel like you’ve wandered into a dodgy part of town, minutes away from getting a kickin’ from the local boys.
Fontaines D.C. you’ve done your city proud; ‘Dogrel’s scrappy charm could just snag debut album of the year.
Words and Thoughts of Adam Williams