Fontaines DC: Skinty Fia Review – The Irish band’s third album is a wild, lament-like storm cloud of devastation


Irishman living in England, Fontaines DC frontman Grian Chatten senses that “doom is upon us [his] Head”.

It’s a sound that resonates through the post-punk quintet’s third album, Skinty Fia: a wild, plaintive storm cloud of devastation. Chatten’s jagged grin channels much of his electricity.

Formed in Dublin in 2017, the group met at conservatory and shared a love of Irish poetry.

On their Mercury Prize-nominated debut Dogrel (2019), they fought against a monochromatic soundscape inspired by Joy Division, Oasis and The Cure for their hometown’s seedy soul.

Their 2020 follow-up, A Hero’s Death, added Beach Boys-indebted color and melody to the mix, along with cautious fan anticipation (“You Won’t Catch Me / In Your Bear Trap Loyalty”).

Skinty Fia – an Irish curse that translates as “damnation of the deer” – is another leap forward. His production confidently stretches the band’s sound to fill a stadium stage without sacrificing their convincing friction between sullen bite and romantic yearning.

Prevented from touring during the pandemic, they began writing at night in London when the mood was darker and more uncertain. Chatten, the band’s main lyricist, recently told Rolling Stone about the prejudice they experienced in Britain: the IRA jokes, the “top o’ the mornin’s” and the grunting “go home”s.

They felt guilty about leaving Ireland, but also felt defensively “huddled”. This spirit can be felt here.

The album rolls into action with “In ár gCroíthe go deo”. The track is named after the phrase an Irish family wanted on the gravestone of their mother, Margaret Keane, who died in Coventry in 2018.

The Church of England rejected the engraving, which simply means ‘Forever in our hearts’, for fear it would be perceived as a threatening political slogan (the family won their appeal last year).

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Emerging from the shadow of a brooding drummed bass and dire chant, the track builds into a furious storm of clattering percussion. Through it all, Chatten intones, “The day is done, the night is done.”

It’s the vocal equivalent of a stubbornly held gaze; The band challenges the church to look the other way first.

This innovative opener effectively, if less experimentally, transitions into 90’s indie pub rock.

There are the swirling shoegaze riffs of “Big Shot,” written by one of Fontaines’ two guitarists, Carlos O’Connell. Then there’s the slow fog of “How Cold Love is” (about a couple in the grip of addiction) and the vicious, rattling kicks of “Jackie Down the Line.”

In the latter, Chatten takes on a snarling glee at taking on a toxic character that “hurts you, abandons you… got away with Mur-da”.

It slacks off a bit on “Bloomsday,” but the beat picks up again with “Roman Holiday,” in which Chatten urges a lover to put on her “hourglass” for a night out in London.

Nineties clouds are blown away by the accordion breeze that accompanies “The Couple Across the Way” (about the domestic barnies of Chatten’s neighbors) before the title track hits propulsive danceability.

It bears a nod to Underworld’s “Born Slippy,” while Chatten drawls, “I let them rip my ribcage apart like a crackhead at the blinds.”

But after all this hubris, the band closes the album with the grandiosely obsequious “Nabakov”. “I’ll be your dog,” Chatten pleads over a menacing guitar that echoes off the dirty concrete of a multi-story parking garage.

On Skinty Fia, Fontaines DC nailed their themes of urban decay and defiant immigrant souls. They just need to find the courage to fully come out of the puppet of their indie and post-punk influences.

https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/music/music-reviews/fontaines-dc-skinty-fia-review-irish-bands-third-album-is-a-fierce-dirge-like-thundercloud-of-ruination-41576636.html Fontaines DC: Skinty Fia Review – The Irish band’s third album is a wild, lament-like storm cloud of devastation

Fry Electronics Team

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