ALBUM REVIEW: Fontaines D.C. – Skinty Fia 


FONTAINES D.C. announce their third album 'Skinty Fia' to be released on 22nd April 2

Since Fontaines D.C. formed in Dublin in 2017, the five-piece have found widespread critical-acclaim, firstly through debut album Dogrel in 2019, before receiving a nomination for Best Rock Album at the Grammy Awards for 2020’s A Hero’s Death. Third album Skinty Fia echoes the hard rock feel of Dogrel and brooding atmosphere of A Hero’s Death to create their most expansive album which brilliantly balances a range of influences and moods.

The album’s title ‘Skinty Fia’ is an Irish phrase that translates to “the damnation of the deer”, and the cover art shows a deer in the hallway of a house, away from its natural habitat – perhaps symbolising how the group feel after their recent relocation to London. The band clearly have great pride in their Irish roots – the “D.C.” stands for Dublin City, and frontman Grian Chatten sings with an unmistakably, and now instantly recognisable, Dublin accent. Opener ‘In ár gCroíthe go deo’, which translates to ‘In Our Hearts Forever’ was born from a jam session. The band were moved by a story in The Irish Post about a woman living in Coventry who was battling The Church of England for permission to have the phrase inscribed on her gravestone who had ruled it must be paired with a translation as to “not be mistaken for a political statement”. An addictive bassline is paired with choral harmonies to create to create a haunting opening.

A more relaxed mood is then displayed on ‘Big Shot’, which was written by guitarist Carlos O’Connell, having been influenced by Nirvana’s ‘Live at Reading’ performance. The band’s fondness for repeating lyrics are at the fore, a tool that serves to hammer the point home, reminding us that “Everyone gets a big shot…”, focusing on personal insignificance in the greater scheme of things. The hypnotic ‘How Cold Love is’ continues the repetitive lyrical nature with Chatten stating that it is deliberate, “To sound like someone stabbing at your forehead”. The song was born from a lockdown visit to the sea during which the cold, raging water brought inspiration that led to writing about the “power we give to why we love” and how it can be a “cold experience”.

The powerful ‘Bloomsday’ is named after Irish novelist James Joyce and was written with Dublin in mind, with Chatten stating there comes a realisation that “at some point you are walking in the footsteps of James Joyce”. The honest lyrics, “there’s always fuckin’ rain, and it’s always dark”, are helped along with another driving bassline from Conor Deegan III. Irishness is again at the fore of ‘Roman Holiday’ with Chatten reflecting on his experiences as an Irishman in London, the line “I don’t wanna see the Queen, I already sing her song”, referring to the English language. Drummer Tom Coll features prominently in the intro, who brought inspiration for the album title as his family used to say “skinty fia”, with the phrase also being mentioned in the song.

The most notable tone shift on the album comes via ‘The Couple Across The Way’, with Chatten playing an accordion which was a Christmas gift. The mournful song tells the tale of observing a rowing couple in the flat opposite bound with lines such as, “Nice to know you’re still caring, well enough to raise your voice”.

The penultimate track ‘I Love You’ offers a contemplative feel, with Chatten addressing his guilt at leaving Ireland after having found success. Lyrically the song shows the band’s willingness to address difficult issues and concerns, with the line, “This island’s run by sharks with children’s bones stuck in their jaws” referring to a scandal which unearthed eight hundred small skeletons believed to have been born to unwed mothers.  Closer ‘Nabokov’, written by Conor Curley, is about a submissive relationship. The harmonic chorus of “Daze ya, Phase ya, Happy days yeah”, proves memorable and is sung continuously behind the verses, summing up the bigger sound that Skinty Fia offers compared to the previous two albums, perhaps a result of moving from Chatten’s small studio to a larger one in rural Oxfordshire.

Three albums in and Fontaines D.C. have proved they have established a distinctive, signature sound but Skinty Fia shows their willingness to explore and push boundaries. The album shows the band at a juncture, questioning their career and move to London, with the questions being answered with brooding basslines and repetitive, relentless lyrics. Having proven themselves in adapting and willing to make use of a range of different sounds, the main question that Skinty Fia leaves is which direction will album number four take the band. With it only being three years since debut album Dogrel was released, it seems that Fontaines D.C. are only just getting started.

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