Fontaines DC: Dogrel review – Is this the world-conquering debut Ireland has been waiting for?
“Is it too real for yaaaaa?” Grian Chatten drawls on Too Real, a single partially inspired by TS Eliot’s Preludes. It is one of the killer tunes that have made Fontaines DC one of the most talked-about bands in Ireland and beyond. When he is not caning them on his BBC 6 Music drivetime show, tastemaker Steve Lamacq is often to be found in the mosh pit at their shows, singing along to every single word.
Legendary former Rolling Stone editor David Fricke also singled them out for praise at last month’s prestigious South by Southwest showcase. NME, which admittedly is a pale shadow of its former self, has called them “surrealist punks soundtracking an anxious generation”.
The Dublin-based quintet are breathing new life into guitar-based alternative pop and giving Irish music an almighty shot in the arm while they’re at it. The album opens with Big, its ballsy first line, “Dublin in the rain is mine, a pregnant city with a Catholic mind”, and a short, sharp, shock blast of a tune that weighs in under two minutes. “My childhood was small but I’m gonna be big,” Chatten declares. The video featuring his 11-year-old neighbour belting it out on Moore Street is one of the best of the year.
Is Dogrel one of the best albums the year? It is hard to think of another guitar-driven Irish album since Whipping Boy’s Heartworm that is as effective and potentially world-conquering.
Holding Hands with Jamie by Girl Band, who sowed the seeds for the current harvest of confident Irish bands, is certainly far more innovative. Some naysayers might accuse them of being one-trick ponies, but they have a bloody good trick, and to be fair, The Lotts and Dublin City Sky reveal more strings to their bow. They possess strength and depth beyond the hits.
Hopefully Fontaines DC will make several great records rather than join the long list of Irish bands who enjoyed a blazing firework career only to fizzle out and fade away far too soon, such as JJ72, The Thrills, Rollerskate Skinny or indeed Whipping Boy. But back to the present rather than the future.
Dogrel does not overstay its welcome with 11 songs shoehorned into 40 thrilling minutes. Television Screen and Roy’s Tune aren’t quite as memorable or slick as the rest, but Fontaines DC do set the bar very high with anthems boasting killer lyrics, such as Chequeless Reckless (“Money is the sandpit of the soul”), Hurricane Laughter (“Cities barking by the windows screaming to exist”) and Boys in the Better Land (“He spits out ‘Brits out’. Only smoke Carrolls”).
It is wonderful that the eyes and ears of the world are fixating on a band who are so intrinsically Dublin. As Britain flushes itself down the toilet, Ireland has been extolled as some kind of progressive utopia in the wake of recent referendums.
The stark reality is that the Fontaines DC generation are adrift in a hyper-capitalist playground of extortionate rents and shameful levels of homelessness, and governed by a political elite who are chronically addicted to optics and spin. Dogrel taps into Dublin’s rich humour and character. It is a cracking debut that attempts to reclaim the city’s soul.
Cometh the hour, cometh the band.