It began with Kerouac. A few years ago, five Dublin boys at Art College bonded over their love of Jack Kerouac and other beat writers. There must be something everlasting about the inventor of “spontaneous prose” on musicians, for XS Noize have found that artists from Van Morrison to Ash were both at some point in their careers inspired by Jack. In many ways, Fontaines D.C. are very similar to Kerouac in striving for absolute honesty in their work. Frontman Grian Chatten has said: “I think there’s an authenticity to what we do, and people have been starved of authenticity for too long. Not youthful bravado, but as truthful reflection… If it ever falls short of being authentic, that’s it – we’ll kill it dead.”
D.C. in the band’s name means Dublin City and the album title, Dogrel, refers to a type of “old, quite working class” poetry “once popular in Ireland”. Dogrel is dominated by Dublin and Irish references. The first appears in the first line of the opening track, Big: “Dublin in the rain is mine”. The compressed passion, burning indie-punk energy from this song emits uncontrollable excitement and a hypnopaedia of a youthful mindset that anything is possible with apathy being a thought crime. More impressively, Big does all this in a short amount of time, in less than two minutes!
The length of each of the eleven tracks varies. There are tracks less than two minutes long to tracks lasting five minutes. What they all have in common is a professional and purposeful rawness. One feels as if they are in a small, packed and sweated indie venue with a two-figure maximum capacity, reacting in harmonious dance movement as a prophet reacts to being in receipt of a divine revelation. The revelations are most profound on Too Real, Television Screen, and Boys in the Better Land.
Whilst the upbeat, hyperactive, raw, rough and rugged guitar palpitations unconsciously and indirectly borrow from other indie and punk greats, the ideas, passions and revelations converted into these tracks belong solely to these five Dublin boys. Chattens’ laid back, yet passionate interpretation of lyrics including Chequeless Reckless’: “A sell-out is someone who becomes a hypocrite in the name of money. An idiot is someone who lets their education do all of the thinking. A phoney is someone who demands respect for the principles they effect. A dilettante is someone who can’t tell the difference between fashion and style”, creates a poignant cacophony with their indie-punk sound.
Things slow down on Roy’s Tune and the playout track, Dublin City Sky. Chatten uses these songs to expose himself to vulnerability and allows himself to become a tad melancholy. This is particularly profound with the strumming guitar on Roy’s Tune amidst the lyrics: “It was the message I heard when the company said “there is no warning and there is no future” I like the way they treat me but I hate the way they use her”. Chattens’ Irish accent is at its most broad and proud on Dublin City Sky, a song about personal reflection without needing to fall back on traditional Irish instruments, arrangements and being solely beholden to Dublin and Irish references; “Chinatown” gets a mention several times.
Dogrel has seldom any experimentation to it. The production is basic as if it is an intimate live recording. From the outset, Dogrel is an indie-punk album telling the collective experiences of the five members of Fontaines D.C. living and bonding together. Bassist Conor Deegan III had a point in saying that “Through each other (Fontaines D.C.), we found ourselves a lot quicker”. Through Dogrel, Fontaines D.C. also re-introduces Dublin and Ireland, not just to the Irish, but to an international audience. Chatten once said, “I’m going to try and do this and if I fail, fuck it, I’ll work in the factory in Monaghan for the rest of my life, but I have to try it.” From the outset, the collective passion is consistent and unwavering.