Text: Claire Desfrancois
It’s hard to imagine a more solemn and sombre atmosphere than that of the new Fontaines D.C. album. On the background of the musical portrait: the hardships of exile in London, the dizziness of sudden success – which we know has affected the band in recent years – and many disillusions. Between the lines, we find the precious Ireland, with its ambivalent image, between uncompromising criticism of religious conservatism (Anglican and Catholic) and the fierce desire to preserve the associated Gaelic culture.
Skinty Fia opens with a Gaelic chorus ‘In ár gCroíth’ and Grian Chatten repeating ‘Gone is the day/Gone is the night/Gone is the day‘. This first track, which translates as ‘In Our Hearts Forever’, is a tribute to their homeland and a defiance towards the religious state in London, which refused this inscription on the grave of an Irish woman buried in the English capital, judging the message too political.
Of course, the music follows the evolution of the lyrical message, becoming darker and slower than on the first two albums, with perhaps the exception of Jackie Down the Line, which returns to the rhythmic sound of the early Fontaines D.C. tracks. Bloomsday soon brings the drumbeat down and puts the leaden blanket back over our heads.
If the atmosphere hasn’t changed much since the poignant A Hero’s Death two years ago, it’s in terms of musical scope that the band has visibly expanded. With The Couple Across the Way, the Irish leave the beaten track of bass/drum/guitars to explore the slow and mournful voice-accordion lament with great success and which reinforces this sense of solemnity.
More direct and very efficient to relaunch the album, Skinty Fia is perfect in its mastery of post-punk à la Fontaines D.C. A track we can’t wait to see live! Penultimate track and one of the finest examples of lyrical writing on this album – if we had to pick just one: I Love You. The track is a poignant, bitter and disenchanted love letter to Ireland, with some sharp lines towards the country’s Catholic authorities.
One week after it was released, Skinty Fia was ranked number 1 in the UK charts for the first time in the band’s history, and it’s totally deserved. Progressing from album to album, the musicians from Dublin have taken another step forward, delivering a musical and emotionally powerful little gem. If there was any doubt, Fontaines D.C. have entered the circle of the greatest Irish bands with Skinty Fia.