“You're not alive until you start kicking. When the room is spinning, and the words aren't sticking.”
These subversive opening lyrics of Boys in the Better Land were my introduction to Irish post-punk band Fontaines D.C. as I sat mesmerized, witnessing their first appearance on American television back in May 2019. From the moment I saw frontman Grian Chatten’s Ian Curtis-like composure paired with the band’s angst ridden drums (played by Tom Coll) and dreary guitars (played by guitarists Carlos O’Connell, Conor Curley, and bassist Conor Deegan), I eagerly fell into the pensive world of Fontaines D.C.
With the recent release of their sophomore album A Hero’s Death, Fontaines D.C. is surging with defiance and valour, while continuing their confrontational poetic intensity and reclaimed admiration of Dublin as seen throughout their Mercury Prize nominated debut album Dogrel. Dublin resonates through the ethos of Fontaines D.C., from their lyrical depictions of a romanticized city to their name itself, with D.C. standing for Dublin City. Scrutinizing modernity’s grueling effects on their surroundings and society has shaped Fontaines D.C. into the band they are today, and A Hero’s Death is the perfect collection of the melancholy and antagonism that inhabit their minds.
PHOTO BY: Daniel Topete
The album's tone is set with a gloomy refusal to conform within the opening track I Don’t Belong, and is quickly swept away into the tornados of bass lines, hyper instrumentals and insistent lyrics that build Televised Mind and A Lucid Dream. Your emotions run free as you experience the psychedelic undertones of You Said, that leave you questioning your state of mind, and the romantic guitar lines that conduct your feelings on Oh Such A Spring and Sunny. Not to mention a title track with drums that make you feel like you can take on the world and repeated lyrical reminders that “life ain’t always empty”, a remark so simple but so very needed. As an album, A Hero’s Death uncovers a conscious balance between intensity and vulnerability, between uncertainty and optimism, and between punk and rock.
Fontaines D.C.’s explicit devotion to their creative expression is embodied within the music, poetry, and philosophical perspectives that define them as a band. Shouting “all bears meaning to the freaks who dare live life not as a climbing stair” and claiming “there’s no living to a life, where all your fears are running rife” embodies their post-punk discord to living through shallow emotions and experiences. Punk is often commodified as safety pinned leather jackets, a sense of anarchy, and hard-core moshing (which will never not be wicked), but the evolution of post-punk music and attitude that has emerged from its prominent era is unmissable. The roots of punk were meant to scrape away the commercialization and aura of rock and roll, in the same way that Fontaines D.C. is rebelliously undermining today’s pop-drowned and materialized world. Grian and the lads embody the simplicity of punk, setting their own standards and unapologetically sharing their distaste towards the gentrification of Dublin and the world that surrounds it. Through their focus on quality of life and art over money and their raw struggles with the often meaningfulness of life, they create music that authentically expresses the self and the mind. Among the interviews, music videos and indie documentaries, it's hard to miss the band’s individuality and authenticity that underlies their urgent music. No falsely humble bullshit and no guilt in sharing a spectrum of emotions, they are real. Grian often confesses, “bleed who you are all the time, don’t hold back”, and that is something that Fontaines D.C. never fails to do.