- 22 Apr 22
Indie heroes hit new heights on hotly anticipated third album.
With the media octopus fully in propulsion, these days even dogs in the street offer opinions about all things Fontaines D.C. Indeed, you get the sense of both a hullabaloo and a tribunal being assembled to meet the release of Skinty Fia. Good luck to them all.
The album opens with a Sinead O’Connor-style incantation, as Gaeilge, underpinned by the austere ingenuity of bassist Conor Deegan, creating a pacific calm in the surrounding squall. All five Fontaines now dwell in London – for centuries, an asylum from whence many Irish scribes have pondered the old sod. Skinty Fia, as with Dogrel before it, applies the Yeatsian seduction of making Ireland interesting to the Irish once more. It’s done not by donning the Paddy mask – rather, the band attempt to comprehend the complex identity of the Irish emigrant. The primal scream of Fontaines D.C. was “Dublin in the rain is mine” – whereas, here, ‘Bloomsday’ spells the impossible necessity of escaping Joyce and his infinite Dublin index.
On the phenomenal ‘I Love You’, like the aisling vision poets of old, Grian Chatten emblematises Ireland as a beautiful being, lamenting the unworthiness of her ruler, firing polemics at the old sow, castigating Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, the Cain and Abel offspring of Collins and de Valera. Decrying Ireland’s dogmatism, self-styled sanctity and blinkered myrmidons, the ghost of Sean O’Casey drifts through the track as a Moses-like figure.
Tom Coll’s hip-hop inflected drumbeats, first unleashed on ‘You Said’ from A Hero’s Death, here reign supreme, much of the record rolling on his swing. Across Skinty Fia, the pulsing bass and drum patterns astonishingly evoke Roni’s Size & Reprazent’s New Forms or The Chemical Brothers’ Exit Planet Dust. ‘Nabokov’ contains flashes of the ’60s garage sound the band once possessed, that evokes The La’s, but is now doused in a Death In Vegas-style wash.
The phantom of Girl Band still creeps about, guitarists O’Connell and Curley parrying their way through the chaotic abyss, executing the Blixa Bargeld role in Einstürzende Neubauten, and recalling the fashion in which Roland S. Howard wrenched back control of The Birthday Party.
A compound forms in Fontaines’ music – like a shadow guitarist manifesting in their sound: an ethereal being, evoking the Irish elk, that symbol of lost Ireland which looms over Skinty Fia.
Joyce reckoned that the shortest way to Tara, the ancient centre of Celtic civilisation, is through Holyhead. Fontaines D.C. seem to grasp that riddle, and as Joycean scholar Declan Kiberd ruminated, remain sincere not to a single self, but authentic to several. They are dignified amidst the grotesque. Mighty stuff.
Listen: 'I Love You'
Read the Hot Press February cover story interview with Fontaines D.C. here.