Within fourteen months Fontaines D.C. went from playing a genial, sweaty show at The Good Mixer to selling out Brixton Academy. The band’s explosive rise to the top has been potent, instantaneous and eventful, and a journey so fuelled by action always seemed destined to influence what followed.
Reacting to the challenge of sustaining the self as much as the individual expression, ‘A Hero’s Death’ represents the band’s reaction to the intensity of life on the road and managing the expectations of others.
The debut album ‘Dogrel’ echoes the energy of their early gigs coupled with descriptions of Dublin. Transporting the listener to specific places and sights, the inclusion of local reference points formed a poetic reportage of their hometown, while the usage of critical commentary tackled topics like capitalism and consumerism through lyrics.
Coarse and unfledged, the second LP marks a gripping exit from the lighter, more externalised style of writing that is now exchanged for an internalised angsty form of expression. Impressionistic but compelling, the songs are introspective and demonstrate ingenuity and lyrical depth.
Delving deep into the group’s psyche, the seductive opener ‘I Don’t Belong’ tackles isolation and lets persistent rhythms merge. A perfect initiation, it outlines the overall theme. ‘Love Is the Main Thing’ runs through similar veins, its pulsating, hypnotic intensity and distinct drumming meld with spoken word.
Euphonic bass lines and subtle guitar tones blend on ‘Televised Mind’ while surreal sonics take over ‘A Lucid Dream’, a track of volcanic force. The sentiment of ‘You Said’ offers an alluring instant before the nostalgic, idealised imagery and Johnny Marr-resembling guitar lines of ‘Oh Such A Spring’ begin.
With an energy reminiscent of ‘Hurricane Laughter’ and ‘Boys In the Better Land’, ‘A Hero’s Death’ bestows a vibrant moment, dishing out dos and don’ts mingled with hints of sarcasm. But “You need not be/Born wealthy/If you care/You’re the heir” is a lyric from ‘Living In America’ where the vibe changes as industrial Suicide-like bleakness lingers and creates powerful sonics.
Elsewhere, the melodic Beach Boys-like moment of ‘I Was Not Born’ furnishes a contrast of sorts. “I was not born/into this world/to do another man’s bidding”, insists frontman Grian Chatten before the hazy, subdued mood of ‘Sunny’ becomes pleasantly disorientating.
Subversive, non-conformist and melodious, this record has the credentials of a classic rock and roll album. The decision to take a radical approach only works for the few, the possession of ammunition that’s needed to master such a challenge is not for anyone. Fontaines D.C. have it, and it seems as though they are only just scratching the surface of what’s to come...
Words: Susan Hansen
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