- 12 Apr 23
Four years ago today, Fontaines D.C. released their acclaimed debut album, Dogrel – which went on to score nominations for both the Mercury Prize and the Choice Music Prize for Irish Album of the Year. To celebrate, we're revisiting our original album review, published in Hot Press in 2019...
“My childhood was small, but I’m gonna be big,” screams Grian Chatten over a tub-thumping, feral punk workout. As introductions go, they don’t get much stronger than ‘Big’, the opener to Dogrel, the debut album from Dublin quintet Fontaines D.C. It may last just one minute and 48 seconds, but it seems like something has monumentally shifted by the time the last note fades, and if you squint, you can almost see the ghosts of Paranoid Visions, The Pogues and Whipping Boy smiling appreciatively amid the murk.
Fontaines D.C. are quite the buzz band at the minute, having wowed all and sundry with their quintessentially Dublin brand of punk at South By South West, and signed to the same label as the force of nature that is IDLES, who they support on a US tour in May. But there is substance behind the clamour, as they boys channel anger and aggression into some of the most visceral guitar music this country has produced in a generation.
The blueprint isn’t new: take a bruising 4/4 beat, and add scorching guitar, slabs of bass and shouty vocals. But there’s a raw honesty to Fontaines’ bluster that makes it feel somehow fresh. There’s a genuine left-wing punk aesthetic in the ferocious assault of ‘Too Real’ and the snarled manifesto that is ‘Chequeless Reckless’, where Chattan defines his enemies: “A sell-out 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.” Dictionary in hand, it’s hard not to be impressed.
Their 2017 debut, ‘Liberty Belle’ sounds as box-fresh as it did the first time we heard it, and it’s almost impossible to listen to without your limbs jerking along spasmodically, while ‘Boys In The Better Land’ could be a lyrical anthem for a new generation: think Lizzy’s ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ on PMA.
‘Television Screen’ proves that these young pups know their history, sharing its name with the first Irish punk single, The Radiators From Space’s 1977 debut. Then there’s the bruising bass encounter of ‘Hurricane Laughter’, the Ramones-on-Buckfast pogo of ‘Sha Sha Sha’ and the restrained ‘Roy’s Tune’, Chatten actually singing rather than growling his words for a change.
‘The Lotts’ expands the musical blueprint away from the relentless shoutathon, while the closing ‘Dublin City Sky’ could be a lost Pogues anthem, dripping with a sense of melancholy and regret that MacGowan would be proud of.
Turns out that first song was a little self-deprecating: big? They’re gonna be fucking massive.