Updated: May 8, 2020
Spellbinding electricity is in Dublin’s fibres, which is exactly what surrounds native Fontaines D.C. With that in mind, we are ready. We’re ready to watch the band’s next chapter unfold. It didn’t take long for us to fathom that these post-punks were different as murmurs started to spread last year; debut album Dogrel grew in recognition, and the visceral feelings telling us that we were on to something quite incredible grew to be tangible.
Romantically raw, the deep thinkers, through their devotion of poetry, let us visualise the inner workings of their city’s present and past through lyrical directness: 'An idiot is someone who lets their education do all of their thinking.’ It’s in no way angry, it’s subtle, nor is it sweet; it’s smoky. Setting pulses racing by swift drums, direct bass, and, at times, distorted guitar, this is all perfectly topped with the depth of that distinctive Irish voice. It was recorded a few tracks at a time to keep the natural energy, with the lads also plunged in darkness with lasers gleaming to keep the ferocity of Boys In The Better Land.
The Station by Chris Killip
But it wasn’t just Dogrel that won us over. Their visuals captured the use of light likened to famed photographer Chris Killip, whereby it’s not just images, but a whole industrial back story coming through. Seeing the quintet live was a curious thing to behold. Their sold-out tour cemented their intensity and demanded your attention. Headed to a zone where it could have been just those five players alone together, I’ve never been to a more abrupt end of any event before and adored it. Last song finished. Over. Done.
The release date of July 31st for second album A Hero’s Death was announced yesterday. It ignited a spark and promises not to be a hash of what’s gone by, but is picking up where they left off, yet with more confidence and complexities. To introduce the new material, we were treated to the title track and video, directed by Hugh Mulhern and starring the mesmerizingly cool Aidan Gillen. (This took me back to the fine work of Paddy Constantine in Coldplay’s God Put A Smile Upon Your Face.) You might have seen Aidan last as Aberama Gold in Peaky Blinders, a show where the Fontaines music would be right at home.
We meet Irish TV presenter Georgie Barnes with his trusty sidekick, puppet Marty in A Hero’s Death. Barnes can be likened to a Henry Sellers type from Father Ted; there’s something surreally dark about him, but we never quite find out why; that is the real beauty. The colour pallet of the piece slaps in vibrant red and blue as Fontaine’s D.C. wait in the Greenroom. Barnes desperately tries to impress, feeling frustrated that puppets are commanding the room, but the smug look never falls far from his face. He seems so paranoid, almost like he is slowly being replaced.
The song is the Fontaines all right, but more. It would seem to have a positive message in essence, but scratch the surface, and you can see how it addressing the insincerity of all the mindful sayings we are on the receiving end of, rendering them slightly plastic. I feel it can be interpreted either way, which is an achievement in itself. Grian Chatten explains,
“Broadly, it’s about the battle between happiness and depression, and the trust issues that can form tied to both of those feelings.”
The simple use of a descending scale and added ‘Bahs’ and ‘Oohs’ adds to its juxtaposition of the sinister and optimistic.
Near the end, faces begin to melt and morph, which added a trippy nod to Daft Punk’s Electroma, making the whole thing so brilliantly deranged. A puppet crow starts pulling the innards out of a puppet Barnes; he's losing reality. There is a photograph on Georgie’s dresser that keeps changing; family members disappear, expressing our mortality and leaving you thinking has he lost sight of what matters, and at what cost? The work is bookended by Georgie back in front of his beloved audience, where everything is super. However, we know what lurks behind the curtain… It’s murky stuff.
To use music and language in such a way that you express the uncertainties of your generation so eloquently is a gift; the band know what it stands for, inside and out, making it easy to join their cause. As they travel up the musical landscape with A Hero's Death, and at this point in their career, there inevitably are going to be comparisons to The Strokes after This Is It. Grian recalls,
“The title came from a line in a play by Brendan Behan, and I wrote the lyrics during a time where I felt consumed by the need to write something else to alleviate the fear that I would never be able follow up ‘Dogrel.”
If this new offering is anything to go off then, just like The Strokes, these unassuming young lads have nothing to worry about.
Article by Beverley Knight