It’s inevitable that, sometimes, art can not only meet, but exceed the hype. We are fed impressions of greatness which become reality, with strokes of utter genius captivating audiences. Certainly, this is what Fontaines D.C. have unleashed with their highly anticipated debut Dogrel. At its core, Dogrel is a rampage of poetic artistry delivered with a raw punk attitude. Real life melancholic hope dragged from the bleakness of a city, at times a full-on tribute to the concrete jungle of Dublin.
From the outset of ‘Big’, the analytical, streetwise journey is cast, images erupting from behind a wall of guitar drones and an assaulting drum beat. Singer Grian Chatten has a telling Ian Curtis-like aura, annihilating the pretentious act of the rock-star in the tones of a true accent. Lyrics strike subtly at the establishment while remaining accessible:
“Dublin in the rain is mine. A pregnant city with a Catholic mind”
The urban bite of reality continues with ‘Too Real’, a song balancing between the shoegaze sound of My Bloody Valentine and an early 80s pumping Gothic splendour. While stirring very human emotions throughout, the band retain an addictive, accessible factor. Not always the case with music which has a punk backbone, but the stylish delivery makes it a wholesome affair of, at times, twisted ear-candy.
‘Hurricane Laughter’ retains an intense elegance, owing to the most melodic of slide-guitars. It hurls the listener into a world of bombastic beauty as the track glides effortlessly along. With half-sung, half-spoken vocal-poetry delivered alongside catchy hooks, climbing from the alleyways of abyss to the world with wisdom from the pavement:
“Cities barking by the windows screaming to exist”
It’s not all intensity, however, and a reflective turn emerges in the form of ‘Roy’s Tune’. A less distorted guitar jangle breathes subtly, reminiscent of the style of The Rolling Stones. Here, however, it provides a fresh scope for Dogrel, showing variety in the Fontaines D.C. creative machine.
Dogrel is not Joyce’s Ulysses recast under the hydraulic weight of distorted guitars. Nonetheless, it does take listeners on a conceptual journey through the city, a thriving culture of unique sounds soaked with authentic soul.
Along the way there are name checks in the beat-heavy ‘Liberty Belle’ and the homage-laden ‘Dublin City Sky’. With realism let loose, ‘Chequeless Reckless’ becomes a fully formed angst-driven statement on the trappings of life and what we perceive as important. Though behind it lies perhaps a more formal look into the values of the band.
The edge that Fontaines D.C. possess is missing in many of their contemporaries, but it’s easy to explain here. It’s because they are five close friends who believe in what they produce and what they do. This translates through the music to the audience. Dogrel is a soulful dive into Dublin life and a guiding light for the future of Irish music.