At the forefront of the burgeoning Dublin punk scene, Fontaines D.C. have been one of the big success stories of 2019. Nominated for the Mercury Music Prize and awarded 6 Music’s Album of the Year, Dogrel is an essential album to listen to, and listen to.
There’s no escaping the Irish background of this band, with lead singer Grian Chatten making the most of his thick Dublin drawl across the album, which ranges from Gaelic folk tunes, indie-pop and high-octane post-punk.
There are catchy riffs and choruses galore and the album grows on you with each listen. When I first reviewed this album I struggled with some of the tracks, but Dogrel’s charms have really grown on me, where other initially impressive albums have faded away.
Having seen them perform live recently, they really have the world at their feet, should they choose to seize the opportunity.
Stockholm seems to be the place to be right now if you’re looking for new and inventive post-punk bands. Following on from FEWS releasing one of my favourite albums of the year so far, we now have Viagra Boys ploughing their own heavy guitar furrow to great effect.
There’s a touch of surrealism across debut album Street Worms and the occasional use of saxophone makes for some interesting moments – setting this effort apart from releases by bands of a similar ilk.
The thing that drives this album, however, is the incredibly infections and super-dirty bass that you just can’t help falling for and the almost pub-rock croonings of vocalist Sebastian Murphy, which he manages to sell perfectly.
From opener Down In The Basement, with its high tempo hi-hats, right through to the hypnotic instrumental LP closer Amphetanarchy we are treated to a masterclass in scuzzed-out bass and guitars that worm their way inside you and stick their hooks in.
Highlights along the way include Sports (see video below), in which Murphy does his very best Iggy Pop impression, and Slow Learner, which instantly transports you to a crowded, sweaty, dirty dive bar to pogo along with the heaving masses.
Standout track Shrimp Shack offers a touch of humour, with Murphy telling us how he’s ‘Surfing with your mom in the dirt’, while the second half of the track is dedicated to a good ‘ol instrumental wig-out.
I’m a massive proponent of vinyl, but it’s a shame that it can’t find room for the five additional bonus tracks available on CD and digital. There are some corkers in there too, including some proper bouncy punk numbers like Jungle Man, Up All Night and the broody but infectious Special Helmet.
The debut album from Dublin-based four piece Fontaines D.C. has been highly anticipated by those with their ear to the ground. Obviously that means this is the first I’ve heard of them, but I’m very glad to make their acquaintance.
Dogrel is at heart a slab of highly entertaining post-punk but manages to draw influences from various styles along the way.
Opening track Big shows their punk credentials while also rooting the band as distinctly Irish, both in the vocal stylings of singer Grian Chatten and in the slight Gaelic folk undertone running through the tune. Chatten’s drawling regional singing gives the whole album a whiff of The Pogues running through it.
This folkiness is apparent across the platter, with the likes of Television Screens and Dublin City Sky featuring it particularly strongly. But there are other strings to this band’s bow (or fiddle).
The Lotts borrows heavily from early Cure in the rhythm section, low key but relentless. This is matched in tempo by the vocals, before drifting towards a hypnotic, head-nodding conclusion. Sha Sha Sha is a chugging number that has more than a hint of blues to it while Liberty Belle smacks of Green Day and american skater punk.
It’s when Fontaines D.C. are playing on the heavier side of post-punk that the album truly comes alive. Hurricane Laughter, for instance, features a fantastic dirty bass line and a brilliant guitar riff reminiscent of the work of FEWS. Standout track Chequeless Reckless operates firmly in punk territory – as does the high tempo jangly guitars of Boys in the Better Land.
There are few bum notes on this album, but when the tempo slows, the noise abates slightly and the vocals come more to the fore, on tracks such as Too Real and Roy’s Tune, then the weakness in Chatten’s voice is exposed. Clearly, vocal perfection is not a pre-requisite for punk, but it might be better not to highlight this as much as this album does.
That said, I can see Dogrel staying on my playlist for some time.
I’m pretty convinced that album of the week is a shoe-in this time around. Will anyone be able to sneak ahead of the mighty Chemical Brothers? On first listen, possibly not, but some albums can really take you by surprise. The challenge is on.