I’m a massive music geek. If you’ve been following Picky Bastards at all, that statement is unlikely to surprise you. But even I sometimes find myself cringing at the levels of geekery I can attain. One of the things that makes this particularly obvious to me is the level of attention I give to, and the amount of work I put into, deciding my album of the year. Each contender is noted down, rated against its competitors in a variety of categories until, towards December’s end, one album reigns supreme. I then go on about it for months. As if I’m sure. While all those other fantastic albums continue to remind me that I probably made a mistake.
It’s only April, and this has already been causing me considerable anxiety. When The Twilight Sad released It Won’t Be Like This All The Time in January I thought that, for once, they were going to make it easy for me. Then I heard that The National would be releasing an album in May. Add to that my advance listen of The Tallest Man on Earth’s latest, plus announcements from Big Thief, Aldous Harding, and Loyle Carner, as well as rumours of a Kate Tempest release later this year, and you might be able to sense the palpitations.
So the last thing I needed was Dogrel by FONTAINES D.C.
A band I had only heard of because they supported IDLES on tour has put themselves right up into the reckoning with 39 minutes of visceral and energetic post punk that hits you like a spade to the face. From opening track ‘Big’ to closer ‘Dublin City Sky’, this five-piece band from Ireland’s capital set about reminding you of how powerful guitar music can be. It might not be the most innovative or inventive album that’ll be released this year, but it is the kind of record that reminds you why you listen to music in the first place.
‘Big’ kicks us off with the simple statement of ‘My childhood was small/but I’m gonna be big’, and it is this attitude that carries throughout the whole LP. Songs such as ‘Sha Sha Sha’, ‘Too Real’, and ‘Hurricane Laughter’ continue the ridiculous levels of energy, enthusiasm, and confidence. And ‘Boys In The Better Land’ is five minutes of pure attitude and swagger. For a first album band, they sound like they’ve been doing this forever.
But even as those songs lay out a marker for what FONTAINES D.C. are all about, it is the three more introspective songs that really indicate just how special this band could be. ‘Television Screens’, while still lively, slows down the pace after the three stompers that open Dogrel. For the first time, we see the band start to open up and put forward a new emotional depth; with lines about using ‘tough man looks’ to cover up your troubles. ‘Roy’s Tune’ takes this even further, looking back at a difficult youth in Dublin and ending with a heartbreaking repeated refrain of ‘Hey love, are you hanging on?’
And then they close things out with the Pogues esque wonder of ‘Dublin City Sky.’ The song most at odds with the confident swagger that defines this album, it stands out as their most open and honest piece of work so far. An admission of imperfection that makes them seem more perfect.
If the whole album had had the energy of ‘Big’, ‘Sha Sha Sha’, and ‘Hurricane Laughter’, it would be simply a great showcase of the band’s potential. But with the addition of these three songs it becomes an album of the year contender and one of the most exciting debuts in a very long time.
Words by Fran Slater.