Since their inception, Fontaines D.C. have been defined as a group that draw on their roots for inspiration; an outfit influenced so much by their surroundings the band’s D.C. suffix is an abbreviation of Dublin City. Their debut LP ‘Dogrel’ and follow up offering ‘A Hero’s Death’ pull heavily from Ireland and with frontman Grian Chatten’s unmistakable brogue, the band’s rich Irishness is always front and centre. The five piece’s third album ‘Skinty Fia’ is Fontaines D.C. acclimatising to their move away from the Emerald Isle to London and how tumultuous that transition has been.
‘Skinty Fia’ takes its name from an Irish colloquial profanity, which roughly translates to “the damnation of the deer” and one that drummer, Tom Coll’s great auntie used on occasion. The band and in particular Chatten, were hooked by the Irish expression of this very unique expletive and saw it as an allegory for how over time cultures and influences alter and mutate. With Fontaines D.C. now settling into London life, it was this kind of phrase and subsequent nod to home that acted as a tunnel back to their motherland, albeit through a semi-distorted lens.
Sonically and thematically ‘Skinty Fia’ is shrouded in doom-like darkness, as it feels perpetually doused in a nocturnal fug. This is mirrored by Chatten’s drawled vocals and the near crawling pace that the songs slither along at. Fittingly the band opted to abandon their usual daytime recording sessions for instances that took place after the sun went down, hence the album’s tendency to project real essence of blackness and gloom. Kicking off the quintet’s third LP is ‘ In ár gCroíthe go deo’, which means “in our hearts forever” in Irish. There’s a ritualistic air to the record’s opener, as disembodied vocals chant around a persistent bass thrum, which are accompanied by propulsive drumming. Layered, atmospheric guitars appear towards the end of the track, which adds a ghostly texture to a song that already sounds ceremonial. Chatten was inspired by a story he’d read recently about an Irish woman who’d passed away in Coventry and her surviving family members wanted to have her gravestone inscribed with In ár gCroíthe go deo. However, the Church of England refused this request, deeming that the wording could be seen as a political slogan. It’s this theme of mutation and misguided nature towards Ireland that drove Chatten to pen this song, as it seemed anything that correlates to Ireland is somehow threatening or violent. The record’s titular track, another gesture back to the band’s bloodline, deploys their Irish narrative to a different effect. With an aural slant that takes influence from dance music, thanks to its varied nuances and lithe rubberiness, again propelled by Coll’s consummate drumming. The song’s narrative hinges on a faltering relationship, one that’s been damaged by paranoia and substance abuse, as Chatten states “I heard you broke up with your fella and now he’s drinking in his car”. ‘Bloomsday’ aches with a brooding intensity, one that’s fuelled by a gnawing guitar line and a constant drummed thud, akin to an elongated funeral march. The band’s frontman has stated that this track is him reconciling that Dublin is no longer home, while reflecting on the city that inspires him so much.
As you’d probably expect from an album born out of the bleakness of night, it’s bestowed with a sinister glint its eye. ‘Jackie Down the Line’ is a song anchored in hate and oppression, as it depicts a less than savoury protagonist, “I will make your secrets mine/I will hate you/I will debase you” drawls a demonic Chatten. “How Cold Love Is” mirrors the iciness of the song’s moniker with a glacial pace and a sonic aura of uncompromising bitterness. Although not as intense as its peers, ‘The Couple Across The Way’ is rooted in a tear soaked melancholy, with is attributed to the use of mournful accordion. The song is inspired by a couple who lived across the courtyard from Chatten and his girlfriend, as the band’s singer observed their explosive arguments. It’s a sad lament of how a relationships can turn bitter where once there was affection. One small glimmer of light through the almost impenetrable noir is ‘I Love You’, an ode to the band’s country of birth, although there’s a duality, as the band deal with the guilt of moving away, especially to another country that has the tendency of not being all that welcoming to outsiders.
‘Skinty Fia’ is an intense listen. One centred on authenticity and passion; rooted in the need to find and express purpose, and the quest to solidify identity.
Pre-order Skinty Fia by Fontaines D.C. HERE