Fontaines DC are a uniquely original Dublin quintet, hewn from the ashes of long dead, hopeless, lost bands. Fontaines DC deserve every accolade they get and more. And there is no shortage of that incoming.
Their first single, Liberty Belle, was released in 2017 and scratched the surface, Hurricane Laughter followed, showing their snarling angry side, the urgency of Too Real and Big followed, highlighting a relentless need to create, to speak truth to power and make a stand for something. Anything.
Comparisons have been made to The Fall, PiL, The Strokes, Sonic Youth and more in that vein, but none of these do Fontaines DC any justice.
They’re resolutely proud of their upbringing, of their city, of their Irishness. Their energy and lyricism come from a shared love of old Irish poets and writers, of an Ireland long gone, of an Ireland yet to realise its potential. Their inspiration comes from years of bold texts and brick-lined alleys, and it is an inspiration not lost on anyone.
Rolling Stone has them listed as one of the top bands at SXSW this year, describing their sound as blunt force trauma. It is hard to argue with that. Fontaines DC speak to all of us. In a city where people can’t afford to live, or they try to live on shit wages spread over three jobs while Google and Facebook are given tax breaks, young people, people like Fontaines DC, have a lot to shout about. Their anger has become Dogrel.
Dogrel is about a Dublin that is being chewed up and spat out, via foreign money, gentrification and people like Jacob Rees-Mogg using the city as a place to hide his filthy lucre. Dogrel is an oft used term that talks of rhyme, of rhythm, poetry, and music. It is lyrical, burlesque, cheeky. Dogrel is a working-class thing, anger, and joy.
Dogrel is Fontaines DC.
It starts with Big, a relentless homage to Dublin in all its glory and guts, tales of challenging childhoods, making life your own, taking it back, making it big. It’s a statement of intent. Sha Sha Sha is next, driven by a pulsating beat that suits its prowling fury. “you work for money and the rest you steal” gives you an idea of where their heart is.
It’s followed by Too Real and you’ve been living under a rock or tied to a radiator if you haven’t heard that before now. Too Real is a remarkable tune, a call to action almost, a song wondering why we’re all sat around talking shit while Rome burns. This is pure brutal honesty, and it is fucking remarkable.
Television Screen seems to laugh at us while the water levels rise, literally. A gentler beast this, though still as urgent, it is a sad, stunning thing.
Hurricane Laughter, for us perhaps, is one of their finest songs. A post-apocalyptic, grungy thrashing animal about the end of the world, running, getting lost, finding truth. It feels like you’re being beaten to a pulp by an evil genius’ henchman in a dark dank alley someplace while said evil genius stands over you, preaching in a hushed, monotonous tone. It’s menacing. Terrifying.
Roy’s Tune is a heartbreaker about putting up with shit, namely capitalist bullshit, barely putting up, barely hanging on. It’s beautiful, heart-rending. The Lotts lifts things up a notch, it’s another thrash at poverty and life on the streets while Jags drive Tory tossers to tracking meetings so they can watch their money decimate city streets and souls.
Chequelesss Reckless is their most lyrically clever, a song about greed, waste and loss, about trying to figure out what is going on in the world, if you can pull yourself away from your phone. “She documents an essence in a bathroom stall” says everything you need to know.
Liberty Belle continues our central theme of anger, of money, and bullshit. Boys In The Better Land snarls about those who’ve left the city in search of double barrel names, fancy cars and fame. It’s five minutes of righteous fury and figurative fashion faux pas. Phenomenal.
Dublin City Sky is a heartbreaker of a final song, a homage to Shane MacGowan and The Pogues, it’s more Irish, gently lyrical, it is almost traditional in its tone. It’s a singsong of a punky poetic passionate love song. Dublin City Sky will be as big as anything The Pogues ever produced, it could be the biggest thing we’ve heard out of Ireland in a very long time, it is that good. By the time you get to the end of this record, it becomes clear that Fontaines DC might just have taken The Pogues mantle.
As a single piece of work Dogrel is one of the most complete albums we’ve listened to in some time, it is clearly meant to be enjoyed from start to finish, there is a narrative, a tale to tell. It is an inherently intelligent piece of work, it avoids the usual fodder of four-piece beer swilling bands.
Dogrel has a swagger all its own, it has a point, a soul. It is angry, in your face confrontational, it demands attention, it is delivered in a colloquially rich Dublin drawl that drags you in, dumping its energy in your head, this stays with you.
Dogrel is a love letter to a city these boys love, its a love letter that begs for patience, a love letter that begs for the forgiveness of love lost somewhere amidst the money and the Maseratis. Dogrel drips with a uniquely Dublin humour, it is dark, devious, devilish, it’s dipped in Guinness and hung out to dry for all the world to see.
For all of their anger, there is a recognition in their work that the Dublin they know, and the Ireland they know is changing, and not all of it is bad.
This is a country that legalised same-sex marriage by way of a referendum, the first place the world to do so. They also legalised a woman’s right to choose and alongside those two huge changes, they’ve kicked the church into touch too. An act that was seemingly easier to do on the news that that same church was responsible for the burial of 800 babies in a septic tank at a church property over the past century.
Ireland is not the place it once was, it’s getting there, slowly, but there is still lots to be angry about, lots of change needed, lots of anger. Fontaines DC seems to be the outpouring of that anger that has been bubbling under the surface for a very long time.
No more. Their time is now