The Irish troubadours come good on a debut album that offers both a storyteller’s narrative voice and a snarling new vision of youthful disillusionment
“A sellout is someone who becomes a hypocrite in the name of money.” Punk’s obsession with authenticity might be long storied, but few have addressed it quite like Fontaines D.C. frontman Grian Chatten – a matter-of-fact definition, delivered in a sneering lilt. The Dublin band might have made a song-and-dance of their lyrical inspirations – ‘Dogrel’ itself is named after a form of Irish working-class poetry – but, to date, their stream of singles have focussed on white-knuckle speed and rumbling bass. From that sellout-skewering ‘Chequeless Reckless’ to the radio-conquering avalanche of ‘Too Real’, anger was their energy.
‘Dogrel’ proves that early-days pinning as punk’s next great hope was perhaps premature – there’s far more to Fontaines D.C. than your typical thrashed-out, pissed-off young rebellion. Opener ‘Big’ might be a bell-heavy, clattering cut, but when Chatten barks that he’s “gonna be big” with the determination and intonation of a young (or, indeed, old) Gallagher, you’d be foolish to doubt him.
Unusually with a young lyricist, there’s little in the way of personal pronouns or stories in Chatten’s writing. Instead, he turns his focus outwards, penning tales of his surroundings and their occupants, often with such close proximity that you’d think he could read their minds. ‘Sha Sha Sha’ is the bastard son of ‘A Town Called Malice’, Chatten sarcastically barking of pub-dwellers and midnight meltdowns atop incessant, choppy chords. “There’s always tears – there’s always gonna be tears,” he quips, like a half-cut man wandering absent-mindedly through a chaotic Friday night.
‘Roy’s Tune’ and ‘Television Screen’ are even more widescreen, the former a beautifully expansive tale of young lovers trying to make it through the tumult of capitalist forces. As big-shot companies toy with the security and futures of the couple at its core, Chatten sings of evergreen eyes and the feel of cold winds against his skin, breaking off for a simple, earnestly-delivered question: “Hey love – are you hanging on?” It’s a question that countless young, placeless people could ask of themselves.
It’s these more melodic moments – no less potent for their lack of wide-eyed shouting – that really mark ‘Dogrel’ out as something special. Attention-grabbing though the likes of ‘Too Real’ and ‘Hurricane Laughter’ may be, their all-consuming noise marking Fontaines’ arrival in blindsiding style, they are but punctuation in a bigger narrative. It’s in the ‘grass is greener’ escapist sentiment of ‘Boys In The Better Land’, or the closing Irish drinking tune of ‘Dublin City Sky’, that these five Dublin lads prove their talent for painting in far more colours than just blacks and greys, and Fontaines D.C. have proved their worth as one of guitar music’s most essential new voices.
Record label: Partisan
Release date: April 12, 2019