With the best bands, it seems to happen fast. The trajectory is steep, the progression seemingly preordained, inexorable. Assembling whilst still at college in Dublin a mere three years ago, from the ruins of early nowhere bands, and having discovered a shared love of poetry and a common zeal for authentic self-expression, the evolution of Fontaines D.C. has been swift, sure and seemingly effortless. Three self-released seven-inch singles (the first of which, “Liberty Belle,” emerged in May 2017) each a confident step onward from its predecessor, and a relentless schedule of live shows have seen them progress at a prodigious, yet wholly logical pace. Through around 200 dates in the UK, Europe, and the US, one word has kept resurfacing in their characteristically eloquent yet direct interviews: authenticity.
The band's intent is drolly embodied in the album's knowing title: ‘Dogrel.’ To give it its dictionary definition (or close enough for now): crude verse of little artistic worth. The ribald rhymes of the docks, the factories and the early houses. The authentic poetry of the people, which any smart Irish poet knows it is foolish to think oneself above. For in it all is an ineffable beauty, something these young men understand very well.
Not that ‘Dogrel’ isn't rock and roll; it most assuredly is, the best example of the form that you are likely to hear this or any other year. It spits, it snarls, it snaps with the very best of them. But also it yearns, like the greatest Irish music must do. In songs like the almost unbearably sad “Dublin City Sky” there is a marriage of the lyrical to the poetic tradition that bears comparison not just with MacGowan's (the Pogues) best work, but echoes the exquisite heartbreak of Luke Kelly's timeless reading of Kavanagh's “On Raglan Road.” This is an example of one of the great strengths of ‘Dogrel;’ its diversity makes it feel less like a debut and more like the work of a band who have long since proven their point, as I suspect Fontaines D.C. may well feel that they have; to the very people who matter above all: each other.
‘Dogrel’ is a debut which is best enjoyed as a whole; it is very much in the grand tradition of the album as art form, just as this is a band very much in the classic band mold: great singles, an indefatigable work ethic and an utter aversion to standing still.
Reluctant to be viewed as part of any wider movement (“I get a bit uncomfortable with some of the comparisons that have been made,”says Chatten, as he must, though they inevitably shall be) Fontaines D.C. have delivered on their tremendous promise in a way that few bands have. It is to their credit and it augurs well that their collective eye is already on the next phase as they prepare for now to merely take on the world for real. Too real.
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