Home is where the heart is, even when the grass is not always green. Five Dublin street poets, collectively named Fontaines D.C., intimately share their place in a new world through the lens of music and third album Skinty Fia, brother of debut Dogrel and A Hero's Death. The epitome of evolvement, confidence in self enables raw honesty, where ferociousness exchanges with fullness in a dark and fizzing body of work. Seeking fragments of Ireland in London, where there can be an unwelcome air, the band presents hallucinogenic, otherworldly art.
Listening to The Couple Across The Way- an uncomplicated accordion ditty with a hat tip to Gavin Bryars, hears contemporary stimulus dressed in an olde worlde persona. Although Grian Chatten observes a bitter courtship in an opposite flat one Christmas, the effect is a woman in the winter of her life talking to her husband of many years as she pretends to dust but stares nosely: "Across the way moved in a pair." I glanced out of a train on the east coast to this song in headphones and saw two galloping hares that wildly appeared large compared to the humans I witnessed before them.
Churchly candlelight vigils and graveyards that have eyes backdrop the record. Opener “In ár gCroíthe go deo- materialising in unity after solo explorations during lockdown- speaks of a battle between a lady in England who hoped for the words In our hearts forever inscribed in Irish on her gravestone, but challenged as it was deemed provocative. Astute and familiar bass introduces choirboy harmonies in a piercing yet heavenly track with a Radiohead freedom of Tom Coll's beats and hip hop attitude. The woman triumphed with her wishes, bassist Conor Deegan III since revealed.
The pandemic forged relationships, not always with humans and not always in optimism; vices bubble to the surface of the icy harshness of the sea in How Cold Love Is: the acoustic strum underscores the melody from voice trapped within an intentionally uncomfortable limbo. First signs of spring appear as lockdown memories fade in a lighter flash, obscurely romantic in its way, an Irishman finds his way through the Big Smoke in Roman Holiday.
In their most beautiful track to date, I Love You stands at a crossroads where the newly famous five were far from home in many senses. From newfound notoriety, a rose-tinted vision of their bonny Emerald Isle stirred unease concerning current and historical stances. The song is an unconcealed emotionally-charged, politically directed one: "And I loved you like a penny loves the pocket of a priest. And I'll love you 'til the grass around my gravestone is deceased."
90s US grunge, Madchester brooding and Primal Scream psychedelia influence the sound with a trace of the Cranberries in Tamborine ladened drawl of Big Shot, written by the hand of Carlos O'Connell after late-night drives on darkened roads. It speaks of keeping one's feet on the ground as a young musician when the world raises them up and away. Leading guitar with a momentous riff that hits the alt-rock nail on the head, also encountered in another Carly penned number, the swaggering Hycenda rap of title track Skinty Fia, swerving from weird thoughts of being in the public eye; strangers forming opinions.
A blazing, unpolished drummed finish ends Nabokov written by Conor Curley with more backing vocals from the quintet that suit them well. Partnerships rear their head again, whether with place or person, and it is never simple: such is life. The presence of the Fons rhythmic ability, lyrically and musically, is bold; permission granted for the mind and senses to dip in, out and between their wares. Lead track Jackie Down the Line rumbles along, a tale of the doomed intentions, devilish potential unravels: "I will hurt you, I'll desert you.'
We have borne auditory witness to the band's voyage from youths to men, in tow with producer Dan Carey and Partisan Records. From the city personalities of Dogrel to the physical and spiritual distance from birthplace in Hero's Death and now a feeling of homeland will never be the same for them again. Ireland runs through the lot and their beating heart Dublin in the red wash, low tones of stunner Bloomsday. Intriguing and curious, artistic. Fontaines D.C. matured rapidly. All that's left behind will always be within them, adorned in their words and song.