From playing in dodgy South London pubs to announcing a headline tour that takes in 1000 capacity venues in just under a year, you can’t fault Fontaines D.C.’s ambition. But can the shouty Irish punks break out of Dublin?
With their debut album ‘Dogrel’, the band make clear that even if they could, they have no intention of shedding their links with the city that birthed them. References to the Irish capital abound – the first word on the entire album is ‘Dublin’ – and Irish traditions run deep in their approach to storytelling, especially evident on tracks ‘Liberty Belle’ and ‘The Lotts’. That’s without mentioning singer Grian Chatten’s unashamedly thick accent, which acts as a middle finger to anyone who says regional accents don’t play well if you want to be successful.
The album itself is a mix of previously released singles (re-recorded for the album and sounding better than ever) and new material. ‘Hurricane Laughter’ and ‘Too Real’ remain as powerful as ever, the audio equivalent of a brick through your window, but it’s not all snarling violence. ‘Roy’s Tune’ and ‘Dublin City Sky’ are beautiful and nostalgic, at times even genuinely moving, no mean feat for a band more well known for mosh pits than emotions.
Despite the changes in tone and pace, ‘Dogrel’ is tied together by the theme of working-class life in a city that’s rapidly gentrifying, the last gasp of traditions that have existed since the industrial revolution, and sometimes even before. The characters and camaraderie evoked by the band are deeply nostalgic, and while there are more openly political moments to be found (the opening of ‘Chequeless Reckless’ attacks sell-outs, phonies and the money-obsessed) the overriding aim of the album seems to be to capture a culture that might not exist for much longer.
People going into ‘Dogrel’ may well be expecting punk-infused posturing on the state of society, and they certainly won’t be disappointed. But alongside this, there’s genuine heart in Fontaines D.C’s music – it’s a love letter to Dublin, and if we were Dublin, we’d be head over heels at the sentiment.