Album Review: Skinty Fia by Fontaines DC

The Irish quintet are no longer the underdogs who were crying about being ‘Boys in the Better Land’. Despite the musical stardom that has come since Irishness gladly remains at the beating heart of their illustrious discography. The rich and heartfelt lyrics of Grian Chatten combined with catchy bass lines has resulted in their best work yet and proves that their fame is well deserved.

It seems like a lifetime ago yet, it has only been 3 years since Dubliners Fontaines DC roared onto the indie scene with the debut album Dogrel with Grian Chatten loudly proclaiming ‘I’m gonna be big’ on the opening track Big. In the time since the boys have really matured their music style, investing heavily in the music production. Skinty Fia feels like the culmination of this hard graft and it may just be their best album to date and cement their status as bona fide rock royalty. 

Whether you like it or not your favourite band changing its sound will be an inevitable part of their evolution. I still remember staying up for the release of the Arctic Monkeys Tranquillity Base Hotel and Casino in 2018 and seeing hoards of fans online trying to cancel Alex Turner for not creating AM part II. The Irish post punk outfit Fontaines DC are no different with the release of their third album which marks a transition away from their earlier records. 

The album opens with ‘In ár gCroíthe go deo’, a spine tingling track that builds up excellently. The track starts with the isolated vocals of Grian and the harmonies of Connor Curley (guitarist) and builds up to conclude with crashing drums and an exasperated Grian chanting ‘Gone is the day, Gone is the night’. Extra poignancy is added given the inspiration for the track, as an Irish Woman battled to get the song title (trans- in our hearts forever|) inscribed on her mothers gravestone. Despite this apparent change in sound Grian and his boys still have Irishness at the core of their lyrics.

The Fontaines DC hail from Dublin (hence the D.C) and Irish identity has always been at the heart of their music. That being said, Skinty Fia might be their most Irish work to date, which is rather ironic given this is their first album since relocating to England’s capital. This Irishness still shines through in the anthemic (and my personal favourite) track ‘I Love You’. Within a few minutes, Grian goes from professing his love to going on a politically charged tirade. His superb lyricism shines through as he directs his anger at the failing Irish state (Is their mammy Fine Gael and is their daddy Fianna Fáil?) These powerful lyrics combined with a Stone Roses’ inspired bass line makes this quite possibly one of the songs of the year.

Sometimes when a band varies its musical style it may result in a clunky and disjointed record but, that is not the case Skinty Fia. Each track is beautifully crafted and flows. The first single released all the way back in January ‘Jackie down the Line’ is a lovely jangle pop inspired and upbeat number that provides the perfect bridge between Dogrel and the new record. Other tracks the closer Nabakov toys with a shoegazey sound and suggests a welcome new direction for the band. 

No matter what the sound the Dubliners go for, each song is fitted perfectly with the lyrics of Chatten. He may dislike the comparisons with the great Irish poets and songwriters of Keats and Morrissey but Grian Chatten is a once in a generation wordsmith. 3 albums in, he shows no signs of stagnation as he poignantly tackles the themes of working class angst and Irish identity.   

For those expecting Dogrel Vol II full of raucous anti- British fuelled post punk you might be rather disappointed but don’t be. Luckily, the post-punk scene of the British isles is littered with excellent bands who shout about the dire state of the nation. There were hints of a sound change in their second album A Hero’s Death and this record confirms it. Skinty Fia is musically less aggressive and highlights a measured approach. It is, I feel, this measured approach that allows this album to be Fontaines most emotionally intense as they continue to tackle dour and sensitive topics in their music.

Senthur Shanmugarasa

Information Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-61111995

Featured Image Source: Still via Youtube // Fontaines DC – Jackie Down the Line (Official Video // Fontaines DC

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