It’s certainly been a wild year for the 5 piece hailing from Ireland’s own Dublin. Quickly moving through the ranks of pub punks, to a tour of America to having last years debut album ‘Dogrel’ nominated for the Mercury Prize. Based partly on the bands abilities to tell rich and vibrant stories of the world around them, and trying to understand it all through the chaos. And new they’re back with a reflection on where that journey has taken them. Not just physically but mentally.
On ‘Dogrel’ the sound was of a band trying to reflect that of the times we’re living in, chaotic, loud and abrasive. But now the riffs have become more refined, direct and on occasion hard hitting. ‘Living In America’ delivers one of the most menacing and brutal instrumentations on the album, with moments of the track feeling as if they’re about to explode out of the seams of the brooding guitar licks. The notion of a country distilled into a song.
Their influence also expands on this album, previously stating that they’d been taking notes from the gods of harmony, The Beach Boys. Which can be heard laced throughout with various harmonies and ‘Oohs’ and ‘Aaahs’ which come into full fruition on title track ‘A Hero’s Death’. There’s also the more serene moments of the album that take elements of another coastal band Beach House, fusing them with their often found Irish folk stylings. The ethereal chorus filled guitars on ‘Oh Such A Spring’ flow out reminiscing in the sounds of ‘7’ the based duos latest album. It’s a short and sweet ballad but allows the calmer and sedate side of the group to shine through amidst all of the chaos.
There’s a certain dreariness to this album that extends not just through the menacing and haunting instrumentation, but through some of the vocal deliveries of frontman Grian Chatten. You can almost feel the burn out the band are feeling after their extensive year of touring and recording new material. Highlighted on track ‘You Said’ as the dragging riff churns along through the song, as if the band are scraping their feet along the floor as the play it. Whilst Chatten sings in an almost out of breath fashion of needing to slow down their life “You said, you been on the brink, so slow down, don’t get time to think now, you try, operating faster”. And the track ‘Love Is The Main Thing’ where the title line becomes the clearest part of the track as the instrumentation muddies itself into a driving riff, highlighting the message that love is very much the main thing within the swirl of uncertainty.
What set Fontaines D.C. apart from most other modern ‘post-punk’ outfits was their lyrical wit and and storytelling ability. This returns in strides with this project, especially on ‘A Lucid Dream’. Told as a recollection of thoughts with various ideas slowly bouncing back into Chatten’s mind as he spurts the lyrics out. Almost an ad-lib musing, backed with a whirlwind of instruments. “And it’s all coming back and the main thing is that the rain changed direction before you were there, I was there when the rain changed direction and fled to play tricks with your hair”. And title track ‘A Hero’s Death’ is a telling in self appreciation, delving into the fundamentals of making sure life is not just the bleak slog it can be. “Bring you own two cents, Never borrow them from someone else, Buy yourself a flower every hundredth hour, Throw your hair down from your lonely tower”.
The rasp of their penmanship only really goes amiss on ‘I Was Not Born’ which although could be perceived as a call to arms for a working class army, ends up becoming slightly monotonous over its near 4 minute length. Rarely deviating from its paced up sixties pop song riff and with its perpetual lyrics only making cameo appearances, the instrumentation doesn’t hold as much substance as can be found on most of this album to make the song hold its ground.
It’s not as if Fontaines D.C. had to prove themselves this soon after their standout debut album, and yet they still have. Bleary soundscapes and a drive to deliver the stories that have unfolded before them. This album encapsulates a moment within the band, as they try and ponder their way how they made it to this point, and what could possibly be next for a band that’s got everything going for them.