Fontaines D.C. have described their new single, I Love You, as their first "overtly political song". It is certainly striking, with frontman Grian Chatten working up to a sort of rasping fervour as he delivers the chorus: "Selling genocide and half-cut pride I understand/I had to be there from the start I had to be the f**king man".
Then comes a line some have already seized upon as evidence of the "politics" in the track. "The morning's filled with cokeys tryna talk you through it all," he snarls. "Is their mammy Fine Gael and is their daddy Fianna Fáil?"
Later, he revisits the theme: "I'm heading for the cokeys, I will tell them 'bout it all About the gall of Fine Gael and the fail of Fianna Fáil. "
When Irish bands "get political" the results are usually memorable, if nothing else. In November 1980, the Boomtown Rats hit number three in the charts with Banana Republic, a diatribe against the dead hand of the church and the stain on the nation's soul of violent republicanism. Or, as Bob Geldof put it, "Forty shades of green/ Sixty shades of red/ Heroes going cheap these days/Price, a bullet in the head".
A few years later, U2 added their voices with Alan Partridge’s favourite weekend pick me-up, Sunday Bloody Sunday. And whatever else you might say about Bono, nobody could accuse him of trying to conceal the lyric’s sentiments within layers of subtext. It was a plea for people to stop killing each other and to find a path through.
The problems of the 1970s and 1980s are not the problems of 2021. The balaclavas have been largely packed away. The economy is in a healthier place, and the Church no longer has its fingers around our throats. The property market is obviously a mess, by contrast. And whether you regard Ireland as a banana republic will depend on your politics and your housing circumstances.
Is I Love You the moment Fontaines D.C. join this patchwork tradition of Irish artists wearing their politics on their sleeves? It’s only just come out so it’s obviously far too soon to assess the historic import of the track.
But the band, who recently moved to the UK, are clearly angry about where Ireland finds itself today. Nor is this a new sentiment. Speaking to me while promoting their 2020 album, A Hero's Death, guitarist Conor Deegan expressed frustration about the outcome of the last general election.
“It’s just shocking that the political parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, have gotten away with ignoring the signal for change that was given in the election result – whatever you say about how you feel about Sinn Féin,” he told me in an interview published in the Irish Examiner.
No band is a monolith and it would be foolish to suggest that Chatten and Deegan have identical political views. What is clear that, Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael relevances aside, I Love You is devastating piece of noir-ish angst rock (and a distinct improvement over the preceding single, the underwhelming Jackie Down The Line).
It augers well for their third album, Skinty Fia, which arrives on April 22nd.