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ALBUM REVIEW: Fontaines D.C. – Dogrel. Dubliners’ Debut Does Not Disappoint, Much Of It Familiar Like The Comfort Of A Favourite Jacket.

The last six months have resounded with the constant presence of Fontaines D.C. There has been the string of critically-acclaimed single releases and their ever-expanding live juggernaut smashing through venues of increasing size. The rise has been relentless and inescapable for the Dublin quintet, who now drop their debut long-player Dogrel on a salivating public.

Firstly, Dogrel unleashes little in the way of surprises. With no less then seven of the eleven tracks already released in some format, and the remaining tracks having conjoined them as the band’s established live set, followers are treated to more of a consolidation than the sound of new horizons being breached. This is, of course, no bad thing in itself; but to the already-initiated it lends much of Dogrel the feel of a retrospective collection; albeit a mightily accomplished one.

“Vocalist Grian Chatten’s sardonic delivery and eloquent turn of phrase ensure that even the simplest of statements takes on a much more loaded significance.”

 

The album title is, in itself, a confusing corruption of doggerel; defined as “bad verse, traditionally characterised by clichés, clumsiness, and irregular meter”. There is precious little of that on show here. Vocalist Grian Chatten’s sardonic delivery and eloquent turn of phrase ensure that even the simplest of statements takes on a much more loaded significance.

Album opener Big is both a literal and metaphorical statement of intent. Appropriately, “Dublin” is the first word uttered by Chatten and its presence imposes itself across much of the rest of the material too; in locations, attitude and character, the “pregnant city with a catholic mind”. Big follows a structure employed by Fontaines DC on a number of titles, a repeated stanza given little twists and tweaks as it unfolds. The song is gone, almost before it has made its presence felt.

“[On Chequeless Reckless] targets are set squarely behind the crosshair; the hypocrite, the idiot, the dilettante – like characters in a parable – all finishing up on the end of [Grian Chatten’s] roasting spit.”

The band’s occupation with authenticity rears its head explicitly on Too Real and reprises itself on Chequeless Reckless, both previous single releases. On the former, guitars slow-build then capitulate as Chatten recites, “none can pull the passion loose from youth’s ungrateful hands” before repeatedly snarling the purely rhetorical query in the title. With the latter, his targets are set squarely behind the crosshair; the hypocrite, the idiot, the dilettante – like characters in a parable – all finishing up on the end of his roasting spit.

Of the previously released tracks, it is perhaps Hurricane Laughter that benefits most from its reproduced version for Dogrel. Careering along on Conor Deegan’s furious bass guitar propulsion, Chatten’s interruptions are angst-wrought; references to the “twisted up” and “tearing down” as Conor Curley’s hypnotic swallow-diving guitar licks enthral. “There is no connection available,” bemoans Chatten, contrasting the emotional and the practical – first world problems in the state-of-flux existence; life in a post-millennial European capital writ large.

“…the diaspora harp on about a glorified version of something that barely exists, the newcomers immerse themselves and lap up Celtic caricatures with the same echoes, ‘spits out, “Brits out” – only smokes Carroll’s’.”

Early outings Liberty Belle and Boys in the Better Land are also included on Dogrel in new formats, the latter cheekily released this week in advance of the album; a cute observation of Irish emigration and immigration. While the diaspora harp on about a glorified version of something that barely exists, the newcomers immerse themselves and lap up Celtic caricatures with the same echoes, “spits out, ‘Brits out’ – only smokes Carroll’s”.

The more well-worn components of Dogrel still thrill, however the collection is at its most intriguing where the songs vary from the standard Fontaines template. Roy’s Tune, positioned as the centrepiece of the entire album is a piece of genius, Curley’s jangly guitar motif circles around a beautiful melody in which Chatten unveils a new vocal versatility. With glorious pathos, he tale-tells with irony about an Ireland that fought so hard to escape colonial shackles, only to submit to a new corporate slavery. It’s a more affectionate slant on the sell-out that Chatten bemoans at the start of Chequeless Reckless. Sometimes life is just too nuanced.

The Lotts has featured regularly in the band’s live set and follows perhaps the most firmly of all the songs here in the post-punk tradition. Keeping the lyrical themes, the twin guitars of Conor Curley and Carlos O’Connell create intense atmospherics. It’s more drawn out than most of the compositions and adds further contrast.

“[Dublin City Sky’s] beauty-in-a-bar simplicity strikes with emotional resonance, encapsulated in its waltz-time strummed outro which fades like a setting sun and could hardly be more perfect.”

 

If album closer Dublin City Sky had been a Shane McGowan composition (or even a traditional) it wouldn’t have been surprising. That is a compliment of course. There is a whiskey-romance about it, “to know you is to love you – and I love you even still” admits Chatten. This endearing beauty-in-a-bar simplicity strikes with emotional resonance, encapsulated in its waltz-time strummed outro which fades like a setting sun and could hardly be more perfect.

Dogrel hasn’t disappointed. Much of it familiar like the comfort of a favourite jacket. The band are excelling, displaying the kind of confidence that thrives on expectation. The newly released compositions create excitement for an autumn tour and, we hope, further enticing new material to come.

No question. They’re gonna be big.

9/10

Label: Partisan Records

Released: 12 April 2019

Words: Iain Dalgleish



Underscore Part 3

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