We review the new Fontaines D.C album – Skinty Fia
The highly anticipated third album from Fontaines D.C. is quite the experience. With the Irish giants bringing some of the most imaginative indie rock sounds in a sea of over saturation, proof that sticking to your guns when you’re good at what you do pays off.
The title itself is one that’s an expression of disappointment in Ireland, translating literally to, ‘the damnation of the deer’. It’s a subtle showing of hands as to what the album is about. This is on full display by the time the album is in full swing, and never lets up once with each of its ten tracks.
In ár gCroíthe go deo is an intense trance like song that acts as an extended opening that’s minimal on the lyrics, but goes balls to the wall with musicianship. At six-minutes long it’s a behemoth of a track that just never stops the build up, with each moment becoming more intense than the last. The atmosphere by the end is palpable as we’re treated to intense guitars, backing vocals, a bass line that’s one for the ages, and the haunting lyrics that are hammered home with intense conviction.
Our first real song that’s much more traditional, rather than the mood piece of the opener, Big Shot is immediately this moody, low tempo effort that’s much darker than what some genre fans may expect. With deeper guitar tones and a heavy bass, offset with with high cymbal crashes that set the mood perfectly. The attitude on the track is one that just shows how Fontaines D.C. have really perfected their sound. The whole tone is much more dour and darker than most indie rock contemporaries.
How Cold Love Is, is the next track. And we continue the theming of it being much darker and bleaker, reflecting the bands personal experiences after moving to London from Ireland. This darker tone is reflective of how moving to a new locale is affecting each band member. How Cold Love Is as a track itself is one that’s once again an intense mood piece with the recurring influence of big intense but steady beats taking over. There’s a clear idea of using a continual repeating beat mixed with choruses that do the same trick, with drum’n’bass being cited as an influence by the band themselves.
Jackie Down The Line, is the first track that slips into something more upbeat, and yet it still continues the theming of darker themes within a new city. It’s all about how dog eat dog big city life can truly be when put up against the small town vibe outsiders are used to. With some guitar twangs and distorted moments taking a front seat with this track, it gives an unhinged feel to the track. It’s very reflective of the character the song is based around, a cutthroat chap who will take advantage wherever he can of those who he comes across.
Next up is Bloomsday, a track that swings out the gate with a bass tune that’s as groovy as it is mean. It’s intense but shows the real power a good bass can bring to a track. Coupled with the guitar that harmonises rather than leading the charge, it sets it off so beautifully and makes the track stand out amazingly alongside the other songs. Its title is very reflective of how the song is, with an almost apocalyptic feel to it. There’s a sort of resignation to it that it feels like the worst day of someones life and feels like the end of the line for someone. It’s an intensely dark track that really sells the bleak feeling that the band is expressing across the whole album, working their way through feelings and ideas they have only briefly touched on in the past.
Roman Holiday opens with a much more upbeat drum beat, and is one that’s full of life and happiness. But when the track starts up proper, it’s clear to see that it’s a false happiness. Happiness that’s manufactured and enhanced by drugs and fantasies. The guitars reflect this happiness with the more upbeat strumming and notes, with the lyrics reflecting the darkness hiding just beneath the surface. The after effects present give this off kilter feeling that just enhances this mood even more.
The Couple Across The Way is hands down the most unique track on the album. The reason for this is the fact that the entire track is backed by nothing but an accordion. It gives an Irish folk feel to the song that’s absolutely perfect. Joint with the vocals that carry a heavy twang in the accent, and the song could be ripped straight from a book of folk songs. Whilst some may be put off by the factor that accordions are a bit of a joke in popular culture, thanks to many cartoons using them as the but of a joke. But the use of one here is one of the most inspired and beautiful uses of one to date. It makes The Couple Across The Way this amazing ballad of a song that’s heartbreaking and beautiful all at once. With very little to focus on musically, it really lets you tune into the vocals and lyrics and listen to the story on display.
The title track, Skinty Fia, showcases the drum’n’bass influence more than any other on the track. With industrial and dance elements such as an intense drum beat that’s enhanced by after effects such as distortion and loops. It’s intense as can be and gives this nasty grimy feel to everything, which is exactly how the track wants you to feel. The marriage of all these different genres is worth listening to regardless of your tastes, just for how good it sounds when it really kicks in.
I Love You is the penultimate track, and one of the singles put forward to promote the album. It’s easy to see why straight out the gate. It’s a beautiful track that shows the poetry background that the band are known for. With a full on rant towards the end of the track that hammers home the poetic aspect of the song so well, telling its story with no ambiguity left to the imagination. The intensity on display with every element of the song is one to behold. The guitars are a limitlessly powerful element, showcasing both a dark brooding sound and a dreamlike chiming on the same song. With heavy drum crashes and the breathless rant of a chorus, in which our singer expresses his love with explosive statements of exaggeration is mind blowing. With lyrics such as, “I will love you till the grass around my gravestone is deceased” really prove how strong the songwriting is. Hitting home and stirring emotion is a way only true wordsmiths are capable of.
Nabokov, the closing track, is something that does not let up on the intensity. Instead it kicks it up a notch, bringing in punk elements with its downright heavy sound. The hard edge to the guitars give a nastiness to the track that is set off even more by the drum beats being outright bashes, throwing absolutely everything into each beat to show the power of the track. With the background harmony vocals giving an ethereal feel, the back half of the track just winds up everything to the point it borders on noise rock with how much sound is going on at such an intense pace.
Coming to the end of the album, Skinty Fia is one of those albums that just does not have a bad thing going for it. Mind blowing from start to finish, with no one song sounding alike, but with a distinct mood on display through the album so as to ground everything. It’s about as close to perfect as an album can be, and could easily be described as a masterpiece. As far as Fontaines D.C.’s discography goes, it dives even deeper into the darkness on display in A Hero’s Death and runs with it. Each track is a story, each is distinct, and each is brilliant in its own wonderful way. In conclusion, Skinty Fia is about near enough essential listening when it comes to indie rock, with its showcase of interesting ideas and genre blending and influence.