Album review: Fontaines D.C. – Dogrel

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.

Release date: 12 April 2019

Rating: 8/10

Standout track: Chequeless Reckless

For fans of:

  • IDLES
  • Shame
  • The Pogues

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Album of the week (05 April): JAWS – The Ceiling

JAWS - The Ceiling album cover

This is the third full length outing from Brummie indie-rock trio JAWS and this album displays enough maturity and song craft to justify it as album of the week in what turned out to be quite a strong shortlist.

The Ceiling has just enough dreaminess, grunge and shoegaze to push a lot of my buttons, and in many ways is quite reminiscent of the work of Shame, who also produced a strong album with Songs of Praise last year.

It takes a little while for this album to get going. Driving at Night offers us some warm familiar tones, with a classic jangly indie guitar riff, while Feel has a distinct Foals feel to it with its poppy chorus and slightly staccato rhythm section.

All very nice so far, though not necessarily blowing your socks off, but the album keeps growing as you listen.

With Do You Remember? we get our first taste of some heavier grungy rhythm guitars, albeit balanced out by some lighter lead guitar work at first but as the song gets into gear the heavier tones dominate and we end up with a bit of a stomper.

Fear offers us laid back grooves alongside lighter touch guitars that really sweep you up as the song motors along. End of the World has some Slowdive influence at the start with some echo laden guitars complementing Connor Schofield’s vocals before the song veers off into a satisfyingly heavy area.

Two more indie classics follow, Patience offers us beats, whereas Looking / Passing has a more atmospheric start. But however build well as the songs progress leaving us well happy by the end.

Strangely, title track The Ceiling is probably the weakest track on the album – a lower key number that doesn’t really go anywhere.

Please Be Kind is another classic indie belter with an anthemic wall of sound guitar laden chorus, while closer January is another groove-laden number after a slower start.

Ultimately this is an indie album, pure and simple. But it is good to see that there are still some newer bands injecting a bit of fresh life into a mature genre at a time when some of the old names are coming back out of the woodwork to reclaim their territory.

Release date: 05 April 2019

Rating: 7.5/10

Standout track: Do You Remember?

For fans of:

  • Shame
  • Foals
  • Slowdive

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Album of the week: FEWS – Into Red

FEWS - Into Red album cover

The second album from Swedish/US post-punk group FEWS sees the band building on the unique sound developed on debut album Means.

What we have with Into Red is a more mature sound, greater use of atmosphere, heavier guitars and a sometimes slower pace. This is epitomised on opening track Quiet, which is anything but. It incorporates elements of shoegaze, isn’t afraid to hold the pace up where necessary, and sheds the sometimes jangly guitars of the last album for something much beefier.

Paradiso continues this trend, while still being unmistakably FEWS. The vocals have more of a drawl to them and the effect-laden guitars in the chorus section are something to behold.

There are some hark-backs to earlier days. More Than Ever is a classic up-tempo indie rock number that, while not hugely original in design, is brilliantly executed. Anything Else recalls Ill from their debut album, before taking us off in a slightly different direction with some stupendous guitar bursts. Over provides us with a proper post-punk opening, a high tempo and a fabulous chorus.

Elsewhere there are new delights to entertain us. Business Man is driven along by piano and bass until distorted synths kick in as the guitars keep building on each other. 97 provides us with a desolate opening using a single echoing guitar and soft vocal before the guitars break over you. It contains quite a discordant riff that at first sounds off, but eventually falls perfectly into place.

There’s even the addition of a little bit of 80s synth on Limits, though this is kept to a minimum across the album.

A highly impressive sophomore for this band, which I would advise anyone with a soft spot for loud guitars to listen to. You won’t regret it.

Release date: 01 March 2019

Rating: 9/10

Standout track: Quiet

For fans of:

  • Shame
  • Moaning
  • Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

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2018 Music Review – January

January started with a bang – in the sense that a lot a bands favouring loud, distorted guitars decided to get out of the blocks early in 2018.  January didn’t produce a deluge of albums to pick from, those that did packed an enormous punch.

We had the catchy, twangy guitars of Shopping, the alt-rock growling of Shame, the psyche-laden riffs of Prettiest Eyes and the unashamedly power-pop-punk of Marmozets  (lead singer Rebecca Macintyre channeling Transvision Vamp’s Wendy James marvellously). These bands proved that loud punk-laced rock still has relevance in a age of auto-tuned RnB.

But the early contender for my album of the year came from another place entirely. German composer Nils Frahm’s All Melody is a stunning blend of neo-classical piano artistry, beautifully desolate electronicawith a touch of smoky late night jazz bars. This took me aback when I first heard it and, after repeated listening, it still blows me away.

Top 10 January 2018

1: Nils Frahm – All Melody

Standout track: Sunson

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2: Shopping – The Official Body

Standout track: Asking for a Friend

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3: Shame – Songs of Praise

Standout track: Lampoon

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4: No Age – Snares Like a Haircut

Standout track: Popper

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5: Prettiest Eyes – Pools

Standout track: A Sweet Song

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6: Marmozets – Knowing What you Know Now

Standout track: Lost in Translation

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7: The Limiñanas – Shadow People

Standout track: Shadow People

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8: Arrows of Love – Product: Your Soundtrack To The Impending Societal Collapse

Standout track: Signal

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9: Starcrawler – Starcrawler

Standout track: Love’s Gone Again

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10: Dirtmusic – Bu Bir Ruya

Standout track: Bi De Sen Soyle

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