Partisan Records

Fontaines D.C.

1/5

Photo: Richard Dumas

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Is it too real for ya?

“We were encouraging each other to be who we believed ourselves to be all the time” - Grian Chatten, lead vocals, Fontaines D.C.

With the best bands, it seems to happen fast. The trajectory is steep, the progression seemingly preordained, inexorable. Assembling whilst still at college in Dublin a mere three years ago, from the ruins of early nowhere bands, and having discovered a shared love of poetry and a common zeal for authentic self-expression, the evolution of Fontaines D.C. has been swift, sure and seemingly effortless. Three self-released seven-inch singles (the first of which, “Liberty Belle,” emerged in May 2017) each a confident step onward from its predecessor, and a relentless schedule of live shows have seen them progress at a prodigious, yet wholly logical pace. Through around 200 dates in the UK, Europe, and the US, one word has kept resurfacing in their characteristically eloquent yet direct interviews: authenticity.

“I think there's an authenticity to what we do, and people have been starved of authenticity for too long,” Chatten said in one early Irish radio encounter. Not youthful bravado, but a truthful reflection of the shared code that has guided these five young best friends thus far, with what has occasionally seemed a preternatural combination of insouciance and self-belief. This commitment to the authentic, in their music and in each other, is key to understanding the Fontaines D.C. aesthetic. In the course of “going round bars, drinking and writing poetry and romanticizing it to bits,” according to bassist Conor Deegan, the band pushed each other to create, always keeping a collective eye on keeping it real. “ We’d call each other out” Chatten has explained, adding, “through each other, we found ourselves a lot quicker.”

Alongside this commitment to each other and the shared goal, another overarching formative dynamic was at work: Dublin City itself; more specifically, the disappearing Dublin embodied most readily in their immediate surroundings, the old working class neighborhood known as The Liberties. As with so many of our cities, the modern malaise of gentrification is steadily claiming vast swathes of the Irish capital. Sure, that's progress, but the underlying cultural cost of this air-brushing of an environment is something that has preoccupied Chatten, feeding into much of the Fontaines’ lyrical content, and indeed the early singles' artwork which featured long-gone, semi-mythical figures like Bang Bang and Forty Coats, real-life quasi-Dickensian characters, legendary in their own time but now becoming lost in the city's fading folklore. Chatten speaks of writing about “the dying romance of the city...the reason we love the Liberties is that seems to be where a lot of that action is happening,” It would be a mistake to view this as some sighing nostalgia, however. Rather, it speaks to the place of Fontaines D.C. in a broader Irish cultural lineage: the bloodline that is more Behan than Bono, evoking poets such as Kavanagh and Lynott, Chevron and MacGowan and yes, even Joyce in the expression of the universal and profoundly human experience through the prism of the local, the familiar, the real. As Lou Reed did with New York, or Ray Davies with London, or indeed The Smiths with Manchester. Write what you know, as the old advice goes. Or, in the words of guitarist Conor Curley: “From talking to these guys about literature, I saw Irishness as being easily romantic about what you see.”

It's a through-line that can be discovered in all the best of Irish art, whichever the medium, and the band's intent is drolly embodied in the album's knowing title: ‘Dogrel.’ To give it its dictionary definition (or close enough for now): crude verse of little artistic worth. The ribald rhymes of the docks, the factories and the early houses. The authentic poetry of the people, which any smart Irish poet knows it is foolish to think oneself above. For in it all is an ineffable beauty, something these young men understand very well.

Not that ‘Dogrel’ isn't rock and roll; it most assuredly is, the best example of the form that you are likely to hear this or any other year. It spits, it snarls, it snaps with the very best of them. But also it yearns, like the greatest Irish music must do. In songs like the almost unbearably sad “Dublin City Sky” there is a marriage of the lyrical to the poetic tradition that bears comparison not just with MacGowan's (the Pogues) best work, but echoes the exquisite heartbreak of Luke Kelly's timeless reading of Kavanagh's “On Raglan Road.” This is an example of one of the great strengths of ‘Dogrel;’ its diversity makes it feel less like a debut and more like the work of a band who have long since proven their point, as I suspect Fontaines D.C. may well feel that they have; to the very people who matter above all: each other.

From the short, sharp opener “Big” (surely rivalling “I Wanna Be Adored” as an irresistible opening statement of self-confident intent) the album delightfully surprises at every turn. The singles sit fully at ease along much more complex, emotionally loaded pieces such as “Roy's Tune” and “The Lotts,” both examples of a bruised but unbowed melancholia which is the record's true genome. “Television Screen,” shares its title with the first ever Irish punk single (by The Radiators From Space featuring future Pogue and another of the great chroniclers of old Dublin Town, the late Philip Chevron) and it is a different beast again: melodic and stately, it's a perfect example of the untimely, almost unnatural maturity that this band has already attained. “Boys in The Better Land,” in another twist, perfectly captures the spirit of the album's title. Among a blizzard of evocative couplets, “He spits out 'Brits Out" and only smokes Carroll's,” stands out as as great a pencil portrait as you'll find anywhere. That Lou Reed thing again.

As a band, Fontaines D.C. are on fire throughout: witness the brief, urgent mechanical grind of “Chequeless Reckless,” which perhaps comes closest to a Fontaines D.C. manifesto: "A sellout is someone who becomes a hypocrite in the name of money. An idiot is someone who lets their education do all of their thinking. A phony is someone who demands respect for the principles they affect. A dilettante is someone who can't tell the difference between fashion and style. Charisma is exquisite manipulation. And money... is the sandpit of the soul.” Spat out by Chatten with palpable contempt, they are words that could come back to haunt him, but he's smarter than that, and anyway, somewhere Mister Wilde is wryly smiling.

‘Dogrel’ is a debut which is best enjoyed as a whole; it is very much in the grand tradition of the album as art form, just as this is a band very much in the classic band mold: great singles, an indefatigable work ethic and an utter aversion to standing still.

Reluctant to be viewed as part of any wider movement (“I get a bit uncomfortable with some of the comparisons that have been made,”says Chatten, as he must, though they inevitably shall be) Fontaines D.C. have delivered on their tremendous promise in a way that few bands have. It is to their credit and it augurs well that their collective eye is already on the next phase as they prepare for now to merely take on the world for real. Too real.

Words by Paul McLoone (Undertones / Today FM)

Albums

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Roy's TunePlay

BigPlay

Too RealPlay

Tour

29 Apr 2019

Bajo Circuito

Cdmx, Mexico

03 May 2019

The Earl

Atlanta, United States

05 May 2019

Kings

Raleigh, United States

06 May 2019

The Broadberry

Richmond, United States
Tickets

07 May 2019

Metro Gallery

Baltimore, United States

08 May 2019

Lucky Strike Social

Albany, United States
Tickets

10 May 2019

Brooklyn Steel

Brooklyn, United States

11 May 2019

Rock & Roll Hotel

Washington, United States

12 May 2019

Rock & Roll Hotel

Washington, United States

14 May 2019

Beachland Ballroom & Tavern

Cleveland, United States

16 May 2019

The Record Bar

Kansas City, United States

17 May 2019

Curtain Club

Dallas, United States

18 May 2019

Barracuda

Austin, United States

20 May 2019

Valley Bar

Phoenix, United States

21 May 2019

Belly Up Tavern

Solana Beach, United States

22 May 2019

Fonda Theatre

Los Angeles, United States

24 May 2019

Great American Music Hall

San Francisco, United States

25 May 2019

Great American Music Hall

San Francisco, United States

27 May 2019

Wonder Ballroom

Portland, United States

28 May 2019

Neumos

Seattle, United States

04 Jul 2019

Site De Malsaucy

Belfort, France
Tickets

13 Jul 2019

Glasgow Green

Glasgow, United Kingdom
Tickets

14 Jul 2019

Gunnersbury Park and Playground

London, United Kingdom
Tickets

20 Jul 2019

Site De Kerampuil A Carhaix

Mael-carhaix, France
Tickets

25 Jul 2019

Plaine De L'asse

Nyon, France
Tickets

02 Aug 2019

Curraghmore House

Portlaw, Ireland
Tickets

04 Aug 2019

Osheaga @ Parc Jean-Drapeau

Montréal, Canada
Tickets

25 Aug 2019

Thing Festival @ Fort Worden

Port Townsend, United States
Tickets

06 Sep 2019

Music Hall of Williamsburg

Brooklyn, United States
Tickets

07 Sep 2019

Johnny Brenda's

Philadelphia, United States
Tickets

08 Sep 2019

Great Scott

Boston, United States
Tickets

11 Sep 2019

U Street Music Hall

Washington, United States
Tickets

12 Sep 2019

Ace of Cups

Columbus, United States
Tickets

13 Sep 2019

Horseshoe Tavern

Toronto, Canada
Tickets

14 Sep 2019

El Club

Detroit, United States
Tickets

15 Sep 2019

Lincoln Hall

Chicago, United States
Tickets

17 Sep 2019

7th Street Entry

Minneapolis, United States
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20 Sep 2019

Fox Cabaret

Vancouver, Canada
Tickets

21 Sep 2019

Mississippi Studios

Portland, United States
Tickets

24 Sep 2019

The Independent

San Francisco, United States
Tickets

26 Sep 2019

The Teragram Ballroom

Los Angeles, United States
Tickets

27 Sep 2019

Doheny State Beach

Dana Point, United States
Tickets

01 Nov 2019

Chango

Madrid, Spain
Tickets

04 Nov 2019

GEBÄUDE 9

Köln, Germany
Tickets

19 Nov 2019

O2 Ritz Manchester

Manchester, United Kingdom
Tickets

20 Nov 2019

O2 Academy Liverpool

Liverpool, United Kingdom
Tickets

21 Nov 2019

SWG3 Studio Warehouse

Glasgow, United Kingdom
Tickets

22 Nov 2019

Stylus

Leeds, United Kingdom
Tickets

23 Nov 2019

Leadmill

Sheffield, United Kingdom
Tickets

25 Nov 2019

O2 Institute

Birmingham, United Kingdom
Tickets

26 Nov 2019

O2 Academy Oxford

Oxford, United Kingdom
Tickets

27 Nov 2019

O2 Forum Kentish Town

London, United Kingdom
Tickets

28 Nov 2019

Concorde 2

Brighton, United Kingdom
Tickets

30 Nov 2019

SWX

Bristol, United Kingdom
Tickets

01 Dec 2019

The 1865

Southampton, United Kingdom
Tickets

07 Dec 2019

Vicar Street - SOLD OUT

Dublin, Ireland
Tickets

08 Dec 2019

Vicar Street - EXTRA DATE

Dublin, Ireland
Tickets

10 Jan 2020

O2 Academy Newcastle

Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom
Tickets

11 Jan 2020

Rock City

Nottingham, United Kingdom
Tickets

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