William Blake once wrote that “that call’d body is a portion of the Soul discern’d by the five senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age.” Blake realised that through the stimulations of the world, we can reach the spirit. That reality is what we perceive. And the soul is how we perceive it.
As ancient tribes used physicality to reach the gods, Fontaines D.C. use rock n’ roll’s momentum and rhythms to dance the soul out of hiding. ‘Dogrel’ moves with the pace of a Kerouac novel – full of the joys and possibilities and experiences of life. The 21st century is full of pseudo-intellectual indie bands. Fontaines D.C. are not intellectual. They are intelligent, strong, funny, creative. A blast of joy in an uncertain world.
Big’s drums blow the record’s doors off. The bass riff ushers in Grian Chatten’s voice and the guitars rush beneath his thick Dublin accent like sonic whitewater. Chatten rolls his Rs like a Celtic Johnny Rotten. Snarling and spitting with a voice that could have come from no one or nowhere else. His lyrics hover between Flann O’Brien and Mark E. Smith – a sort of inscrutable Gaelic punk. “With a face like sin and a heart like a James Joyce novel,” he sings on Boys In The Better Land. He has drawn from a library’s worth of lexicons. Bringing together poetry and rock n’ roll in a way unlike any before. They meet in the hinterland between the written word, punk rock, and Ireland. Where they come together as a community of influences, transcending their limitations to create something new. A rock music for today.
The guitars are the legs of the sound, the muscle behind the punch. They shimmer with the possibilities of alternative music and hit with the strength of garage rock. On The Lotts they bite like panthers as Chatten yearns for a place beyond where he’s at: “There ain’t nothin’ here for me.” Drums roll and guitar-chords ring with a gentle melancholy while the bassline weaves in and out of the cadences. Tracing a path around the riffs rather than following them.
The intelligence of ‘Dogrel’ comes from the way each element interacts with the others: How the words and the accent work together, how the instruments move about each other. Chequeless Reckless says that “An idiot is someone who lets their education do all of their thinking.” Fontaines D.C. know what they’re about. They move with purpose and grace through the 11 tracks on “Dogrel”. Onto the romance of closing track “Dublin City Sky.” Where they evoke the timeless emotions of folk music: regret and romance.
Romance is something that has been missing from music for an age. Hip-hop and indie are swimming in sentimentality and bravado, but lack the tenderness of soul, Americana, rock, folk, country. Not all of those genres have influenced Fontaines D.C. But there’s enough heart in their music to animate the dead.
Rock n’ roll’s first poet was Chuck berry. “My heart’s beating rhythm,” he sang, “and my soul keeps a-singin’ the blues.” ‘Dogrel’ is a record of soul, rhythm, blues, brains, sensitivity, and attitude. Through the world and its experiences, it reaches the people. The humanity behind every individual.