Fontaines D.C. Create a Classic Debut Record.
Dogrel is the highly anticipated debut album from Fontaines DC who have recently caused waves in Ireland’s music scene, as well as making their mark elsewhere. Following a relentless touring schedule, supporting Shame, and playing countless gigs including SXSW, this band are set to play numerous festivals in the summer, as well as joining IDLES on their US tour next month. Dublin’s finest now have an album of their own and it definitely packs a powerful punch, to say the least.
Boisterous opener ‘Big’ brings an abrupt start to the album. The central lyric ‘my childhood was small, but I’m gonna be big’ creates a rollicking ride through themes of nostalgia and determination. The urgent drum beat is greeted by an equally insistent bass line, as frontman Grian Chatten’s distinctive Irish accent delivers a nonchalant outlook on the band’s hometown – ‘Dublin in the rain is mine, a pregnant city with a Catholic mind’. A perfect intro for this record; channelling an effective pure punk simplicity, ‘Big’ successfully paints the gritty picture of Dublin City that is carried throughout the entire album.
‘Sha Sha Sha’ immediately sparks a similar punchy attitude with an off-kilter beat. This intro quickly morphs into what can be best described as The Clash’s ‘London Calling’ on a rampage after one too many energy drinks. That analogy aside, it’s true that track number two displays a lighter, more upbeat side to this band; the same jaunty edge seen in ‘Liberty Belle’. Although musically these may not be as guitar-heavy as some of Fontaines DC’s other tracks, they still manage to beautifully convey the art of raw storytelling through Chatten’s authentic Dublin drawl and prolific lyricism (via the charming narration of ‘pissed on the wheel of his own car’ and ‘you know I love that violence that you get around here’).
Following its release in November (2018), ‘Too Real’ quickly became my song of the year, and continues to stand out in a similar way on this album. The passionately repeated chorus ‘Is it too real fur yaaaa’ quickly propels this track to an anthemic level. Its drawn out intro and intoxicating bass line is complemented by the most sarcastic ‘ahhh’ I’ve ever heard, which definitely does not prepare you for the chaos that follows. A tornado of whirring heavy guitars, similar to those found in ‘Hurricane Laughter’, encapsulates Chatten’s deadpan delivery of the effortlessly poetical lines ‘None can pull the passion loose from youths ungrateful hands, as it stands I’m about to make a lotta money, gold harps in the pan’.
It’s all in the lyrics.
It is the artistic songwriting evident here, and throughout the entire release, that reflects the concept of the album’s title. The band previously took to Twitter to describe ‘Dogrel’ as a ‘crude, traditionally Irish working-class form of verse, historically looked down upon by literary critics.’ Tracks such as the riveting ‘Chequeless Reckless’ display how well Fontaines DC can craft lyrics that not only mesmerise the listener, but forces them think – ‘charisma is exquisite manipulation and money is the sandpit of the soul’. This track expresses issues regarding hypocritical people who criticise the world, whereas the raucous rock and roll frenzy ‘The Boys In The Better Land’ draws upon attitudes of moving away to where the grass is greener, or in their words ‘get yourself a good car, get outta here’.
Dogrel not only supplies dark tales of Dublin City, but whisks you away on a musical trip. ‘Television Screens’ evokes a sound reminiscent of indie bands such as the Smiths and Cradleyard, yet it does not feel out of place in the midst of the album as a whole. There’s something slightly more whimsical and melancholic about this track, achieved by swapping fuzzy bass and harsh guitars for a lighter, more emotional riff. Likewise, a similar effect is created in the rolling and atmospheric sounds that accompany ‘Roy’s Tune. In contrast, darker and more mysterious vibes are present in ‘The Lotts’ which bears a strong resemblance to The Cure’s ‘A Forest’ alongside a nod towards Joy Division, while still managing to maintain Fontaines DC’s signature sound. Finally, this stunning debut is brought to a gratifying end in the form of the folky ballad ‘Dublin City Sky’. This final track, in the style of traditional Irish song, perfectly rounds off the mesmerising mosaic of tracks that make up Dogrel.
Overall this is a mightily strong debut, with its self-deprecating title perfectly reflecting the rawness of the band, as well as their own attitude to their music. Fontaines DC are not trying to be anything they are not, and this is shown by the obvious authenticity that is carried throughout this album from start to finish. Dogrel is a solid piece of work from a band who wholeheartedly deserves all of the praise and recognition that this release has already sparked, and is yet to spark within people in the future.