Fontaines DC: Skinty Fia Review – Bravely Embracing a State of Confusion | Fontaines DC

fontaines DC have been many different things over the course of their short career. Gobby upstarts, loudly proclaiming their own greatness – “my childhood was small, but I’m going to be big,” crowed Grian Chatten on the opening track of the band’s 2019 debut – and gruff self-doubts, prickly suspicious of their own success and acclaim: “Pigeonholed, coo’ed to death,” Chatten lamented about his 2020 follow-up A Hero’s Death. The sound of young Dublin rejecting the restrictions of their hometown – “if you’re a rock star, porn star, superstar – whatever you are / buy a good car, get out of there” – and Irish emigrants uncomfortably relocated to Groot Britain: “London is fine, I’ve had my time / the truth leaked out.” A band that felt like a reset button in an increasingly dying alt-rock scene, storming at the head of a new wave of artists with roaring guitars and to sing song and refusal, who don’t want to belong to anything: “I belong to nobody, I don’t want to belong to anybody.”

Fountains DC: Skinty Fia album artwork

Given their history, the question is what Fontaines DC are now around their third album. Packaged in a sleeve with a nervous-looking deer in the hallway of a house, the title is derived from a Gaelic expression of annoyance, and it alternately tackles subjects such as addiction, relationships and the idea of ​​Irishness as seen through the lens of the Irish diaspora. If its predecessor was an album audibly written by a tour-weary band wary of the hyperventilating reviews and Mercury award nominations — home to songs with names like Televised Mind, A Lucid Dream and No — his great skill lay in turning that caution into songs that felt poignant and realistic, not petulant.

In contrast, Skinty Fia feels more measured and reflective. There are few examples of their punky full-pelt approach. The default rhythm setting is slow; his guitars feel echoey and cavernous—even shoegaze-y when churning up closer Nabokov—rather than urgent and in your face. One track removes every recognizable aspect of Fontaines DC’s sound, save Chatten’s vocals—and puts them on a squeaky accordion: The Couple Across the Way is a refugee from an abandoned idea to record a double album, whose one half is devoted to songs inspired by traditional Irish music. The lyrics show a bickering old couple seeing new neighbors (“a couple with passion in bloom”) and wondering aloud what they think. “Maybe they’re looking through at us and hoping they get it in time,” it concludes ambiguously. It’s hard to tell whether that last line suggests that, deep down and despite the arguments, everything is fine between the older couple, or whether it’s a hollow laugh at the delusions of young love.

Fontaines DC: Roman Holiday – Video

Emotionally, at least, The Couple Across the Way is part of the rest of Skinty Fia: an uneasy uncertainty, or at least ambiguity, permeates almost everything. Roman Holiday is both giddy with the excitement of London life – “come on before it goes away… put on your high heels” – and furious with English snobbery: “While they’re snuffing out hope and blotting out suns / they claim to know the form in which genius comes.” Bloomsday finds Chatten walking around Dublin, his nostalgia pierced by the realization of why he left in the first place: “Looking for a thing no do-er’s done / We won’t find it here my love.” Crawling, shot at atonal shards of guitar , the music tells its own story.Meanwhile, the album’s most poppy moment, the Smiths-y single Jackie Down the Line, has something akin to a chorus sing-along and is adorned with “do-do-do” and “la-la-la” choruses that tell a grim tale of a controlling, abusive relationship from the unrepentant abuser’s perspective: an impressively disturbing thing to have the audience sing along to.

In a polarized era, there’s something to cheer about Fontaines DC’s audacious refusal to get involved, instead acting in shades of gray and ambiguity. There’s also something audacious about their reluctance to rely on the most direct aspect of their sound. If you occasionally long for a song that grabs the listener by the throat like Boys in the Better Land or A Hero’s Death did, the music makes up for it by expanding in a way that bodes well for the future: the combination of jagged guitars and electronics, sometimes reminiscent of a cloudy version of the Chemical Brothers sound; the tapestry of almost choir backing vocals behind opener In ár gCroíthe Go Deo. For now, embracing a state of confusion suits them.

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