Photo by Gabriel C. Pérez/KUTX
Fontaines D.C. — A Hero’s Death (Partisan Records)
With borders so narrowly defined, it’s easy to view post-punk as parody. But the common thread has as much to do with adolescence as pretense. For the best of these bands, there’s something gripping about the passionate boredom, the take it or leave it stance. It’s pretty much how they go through life. Fontaines D.C. is made up of students from the University of Dublin (their suffix stands for Dublin City), originally from the “back-arse of nowhere in Ireland,” who coalesced around their love of poetry. When their poetry volumes weren’t getting them attention, they thought music might. Their 2019 debut album, Dogrel, hit like an electric jolt. The group wasn’t breaking the mold. They were just really good at filling it. The Fontaines revered Dublin’s Girl Band and the Pogues (but sounded like neither). Vocalist Grian Chatten did nothing to disguise his brogue as he sang into the floor, fronting ferocious twin guitar interplay and a barely contained drummer. It was a glorious din. Better still, they seemed to have something to say. “Dublin in the rain is mine/A pregnant city with a Catholic mind.”
Like any band finding success quickly, their follow-up, A Hero’s Death, was written and recorded between ever-mounting tour obligations. So, a bit less fussed over if no less thrilling, and a little more well-traveled. Nihilism is a given in this genre, but on “Televised Mind,” Chatten seems closer to comfortably numb. “All your laughter pissed away/ All your sadness pissed away/ Now you don’t care what they say/ Nor do I.” “Living in America” finds him geographically adrift. He’s emotionally lost on the opener, intoning “I don’t belong to anyone.” Yet “Love is the Main Thing” on the very next track, while “A Lucid Dream” conjures a romantic, rain-soaked nightmare. The band remains intense and vigorous throughout these mood shifts, which even include a wistful ballad, “Oh Such A Spring.” The title track, a kind of over-amped skiffle with droning guitars, finds Chatten stuck on a new motto: “Life ain’t always empty.” It’s not exactly “What A Wonderful World,” but for this band, it’s pretty damn close.
– Jeff McCord