Review: Fontaines D.C. – ‘A Hero’s Death’

Myron Winter-Brownhill

A year after their spectacular rise to fame with Dogrel, Dublin post-punk paladins Fontaines D.C. return with something even better. Myron Winter-Brownhill reflects on the band’s tempestuous journey from humble Irish beginnings to vital players in the millenial post-punk revival, and the culminating sophomore full-length, A Hero’s Death

Who’d have thought an Irish post-punk band would have gone up against Taylor Swift for the #1 spot on the album charts with only their second LP? Fontaines D.C.’s success is any band’s dream. Their debut was received with five-star reviews and adjectives like “essential and “perfect“. There was even a comparison of frontman Grian Chatten’s Dublin accent to Alex Turner’s Yorkshire tongue when Arctic Monkeys debuted back in 2006 (yes, not everyone is from the south of England, apparently). 

Dogrel was sharply written, energetic, and generally rabble-rousing, with bawdy bangers like Boys in the Better Land procuring regular airtime on BBC Radio 1. The band’s working-class Irish roots were on show that brought an authenticity to the album (which some bought, and others didn’t). All of this led to them being talked about as something akin to the poets of punk.

Such a huge amount of success brought its own complications. In an interview with DIY last month, the band talked about going to LA, high on the success of Dogrel and recording a second album there at Sunset Sound Studios which, in Chatten’s words, ended up sounding like “a big cocaine second album”. So, they ditched that album and made another one back in Dublin: A Hero’s Death.

Listening to A Hero’s Death after Dogrel, it’s clear that Fontaines have grown. There are similarities between the two of course: there are still a handful of bangers like Televised Mind and the title track that demand to be played loud – A Hero’s Death in particular is a near-perfect anthem: filled with a determination that grows more intense as the album progresses. 

The band show a greater depth than on their debut which, though immaculately executed, was guitar-music through and through

Fontaines have leaned into a deadpan sound, flecked with sarcasm, which distances A Hero’s Death from the more boyish Dogrel. Living in America is particularly strong in this regard, as is Televised Mind, with it’s arresting, frenetic rhythm.

Elsewhere, the band show a greater depth than on their debut which, though immaculately executed, was guitar-music through and through. There are more slow-burning tracks, such as the nostalgic Oh Such a Spring – a beautifully written song complemented by a delicate arpeggio. Love is the Main Thing is a more drawn out track which feels like it could have been built on; it runs a little too much on the repetition that is a trademark of this genre, except without really doing anything interesting. 

Thankfully, Fontaines continue their knack for ending their albums on a high note, just as with Dublin City Sky on Dogrel, and the abruptly titled No serves as a melancholy finisher. It’s a fairly conventional ballad, but its quality pulls it through.

At the time of writing, A Hero’s Death sits at #2 on the charts, after Taylor Swift’s folklore had its CD release brought forward. It feels odd to see that as a loss, considering how young Fontaines D.C.’s career is, and it doesn’t change the fact that they’ve put out another strong record and have carved out a space for themselves in today’s post-punk scene – no sophomore slumps here.

Myron Winter-Brownhill

Featured image courtesy of Fontaines D.C. via FacebookNo changes made to this image.

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