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Fontaines D.C. - 'Skinty Fia' Album Review


1. In ár gCroíthe go deo 2. Big Shot 3. How Cold Love Is 4. Jackie Down The Line 5. Bloomsday 6. Roman Holiday 7. The Couple Across The Way 8. Skinty Fia 9. I Love You 10. Nabokov

Every few years I try to read James Joyce’s Ulysses, I have varying degrees of success, but I’ve yet to make it to the end. I always start with optimism, but when I’m about a third of the way through, I realise that I’m not enjoying it (or understanding it if I’m being brutally honest). I continue to plough on with the understanding that I am bettering myself, that it will begin to make sense, but it never does and by the time I’m halfway through, I’ve usually moved onto something a lot more lowbrow and easier to read; Leopold Bloom’s dietary ruminations and procrastinations consigned to the bookshelf for another few years. Among the English teachers who endured me at school, one was a huge Joyce fan, who impressed upon me the importance of the author’s work. When I mentioned this to another victim of my shoddy attitude towards schoolwork, he responded that we read for pleasure, and if we don’t enjoy a book, then we’re wasting our time. The former’s words ring strong as I start, whilst the echoes of the latter grow louder as the book progresses and my enthusiasm wanes. So I seek to find a balance - literature that both entertains and provides cerebral nourishment. It’s the same with music; I want something that is adventurous yet listenable, interesting yet accessible. This can be a difficult balance to strike but fuck me, Dublin’s Fontaines D.C. walk that line perfectly, barely putting a foot wrong.

I’ve been listening to ‘Skinty Fia’ for a couple of weeks now; it was immediately compelling, and I’ve grown to love it more with each listen (and I’ve listened a lot). In some ways ‘Skinty Fia’ follows on from where 2020’s ‘A Hero’s Death’ left off (albeit with a fair bit more production and effects wizardry); with Fontaines’ trademark driving downbeat Post-Punk rhythms and Grian Chatten’s hypnotic vocal refrains.

From the opening track, ‘In ár gcroíthe go deo’ where the title is chanted over a throbbing yet understated bass, it’s clear that this is not just more of the same though- this is more grown up stuff, but it’s going to enthral you, grab you tightly and never let go, it’s going to shake you like an almost empty sauce bottle, till you have nothing left but still you want, still you need more.

Comparisons to My Bloody Valentine are understandable, but Fontaines have grown into their own beast, one whose roar will also be echoed through generations of bands to come. Grown up as this album is, there’s still light to the shade; the infectious single ‘Jackie Down The Line’ being every bit as infectious and nearly as raucous as 2019’s ‘Liberty Belle’. But there’s a lot of shade; a brooding menace that runs through the record, bubbling to the surface in explosions of power that you can see coming, but can’t avoid, even if you wanted to. I think what gets me most about this record, is just how fucking real it is- how a song called ‘I Love You’ can be so dark, challenging and complex, because that’s what love really is.

There’s no saccharine here; any sweetness is accompanied by twice as much bitter, because that’s what life really is. Society is screwed; everyone hates everyone, our leaders are clueless, and we have to find scraps of joy where we can- that’s what the world really is, and Fontaines have created the perfect soundtrack to modern life. As Chatten succinctly puts it: “if I must have a future, then I want it with you”, and if we must have a future, then I want it with Fontaines D.C.

Review - Jm Stokes


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