generational group struggling with inheritance

“Heavy is the head that wears the crown,” the old adage goes, and, in the words of the Irish elk that graces the cover of Fontaines DC’s third album “Skinty Fia,” that seems to be true. The animal was one of the strongest deer that ever lived and a leader for its species, but disappeared 4,000 years ago when their antlers grew so big they couldn’t stand standing. The decision to make this proud, exhibitionist creature the artwork of this record is a wise one, however: like her songs, she looks strong, bright and pristine from a distance, but upset and confused if you get too close. .

‘Skinty Fia’ translates from Irish to ‘the damnation of the stag’, and the quintet from Dublin described the Irish elk as representative of their ever-changing relationship with their country’s culture. With the exception of guitarist Conor Curley, the band moved to London two years ago. “It’s hard to stay in touch with Irish culture while you’re not there,” said drummer Tom Coll. NME in this week’s cover. “You are struggling with guilt.” “Skinty Fia” unpacks the emotional intensity of this major life change, resulting in their most experimental music yet.

From 2019’s busy and stinging debut, “Dogrel,” Fontaines DC has crafted growling guitar music firmly rooted in the post-punk setting, with busy, ricocheting arrangements and recurring sounds that cut deep and sharp as a knife. Yet the songwriting of frontman Grian Chatten – who has already traversed important topics ranging from income inequality in Ireland to youthful disillusionment – ​​has always been dense with greater possibilities than his contemporaries, oscillating between the future and the past of his country. And during a pandemic that has tragically decimated large swathes of the music industry, Fountains DC’s status has only improved; The 2020 sequel ‘A Hero’s Death’ reached number two in the UK and led the band to a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Album.

Recorded live to tape over a two-week period, the recording process matched that of its predecessors, but the sonic changes on ‘Skinty Fia’ are subtly experimental; the album is the sound of a band stretching into new forms. The title track sees them fall through a trapdoor into a murky trip hop party, its percussive sections tingling like goosebumps as they fold into each other. It eliminates some of the grittier edges of the band’s sound without losing their methodical, dark approach to a melody.

On previous releases, Chatten delivered his lyrics breathlessly, as if thoughts were coming fast and fast. The haunting single ‘Jackie Down The Line’, with its shivers and bass spikes, sees him exert total control as he delivers a big pop hook on the chorus, before sending his vocals echoing across the bridge. There are other intriguing left turns, too: “The Couple Across The Way” paints a heartbreaking picture of a deeply fractured relationship atop an accordion section, while the melody of “How Cold Love Is” is deliberately circular and repetitive, its guitar riffs twisting and stopping abruptly to make way for intermittent moments of respectful silence.

Anxiety has long lived in Fontaines DC’s music, but it develops into massive mass on ‘Skinty Fia’. The group looks outward, digging into issues that have affected the Irish diaspora as a whole. The propulsive overture ‘In ár gCroíthe go deo’ is inspired by a story of Jirish post about the late Margaret Keane, whose family planned to have the titular epitaph engraved on her headstone. Yet they were challenged by the Church of England on the grounds that the Gaelic phrase could be considered “political” without an English translation – and this song communicates the pain the band felt at that decision by assembling vocals from teeming group in a fragile but amazing. Climax.

Later, on the powerful and searing “I Love You”, Chatten goes on trial, dissecting his own concerns before addressing the young Irish. The five-minute centerpiece opens with a Stone Roses-style bass rumble that quickens and intensifies as it begins to identify the failures of the unelected Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael coalition that formed the current Irish government since 2020, as well as a nod to Ireland’s growing housing problems and high youth suicide rates. “Flowers read like broadsheets / Every young man wants to die”he repeats on a thunderous drumkit.

Honoring the rage of his generation, the track allows Chatten to cry out against his politically dysfunctional home, but also to contemplate the pain of moving away from it; no matter how tormented this album is, you can feel “Skinty Fia”‘s wounded heart beating throughout. The fight for a better Ireland deserves songs that reflect the depth of the crisis, and in its endlessly captivating glory, ‘Skinty Fia’ triumphantly delivers on the task.


  • Release date: April 22
  • Record company: Partisan files

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