Fontaines DC – Skinty Fia
On Fontaines DC’s third album, Skinty Fi (which translates as a kind of catch-all expletive), the band have risen, musically and in maturity, to match the dizzying heights of their current success.
The album itself is pure, intoxicating atmosphere. From the grunge slow jam of Big Shot, where Grian Chatten’s gravelly vocals are dragged over booming riffs, to the speedy shuffles of the indie-inflected Jackie Down the Line, Fontaines make variety their strength. They close out the record with Nabakov, its ethereal vocals chanting “happy days” – perhaps one of many Irish references that feature throughout the album – against a wall of sound, courtesy of Carlos O’Connell and Conor Curley on guitars and Conor Deegan on bass. With every Fontaines release, a special mention must go to Tom Coll on drums, whose keen awareness for mood, matched with blistering skill, adds another unique musical voice to the mix.
Fontaines’ third outing has given the band an opportunity to reflect on their Irish homeland, its relationship with the world and their stratospheric rise after moving to London. The sombre, almost church-like opening of In ár gCroíthe go de (meaning “in our hearts forever”) – their only title in Irish Gaelic – speaks to a deeper issue of Anglo-Irish relations: the song was inspired by a fraught case between an Irish-born woman, whose tombstone featured the inscription in Gaelic, and the Church of England, who were worried it could be interpreted as some kind of political statement. On Bloomsday (the annual celebration of Irish writer James Joyce, named after Ulysses’s Dublin-wanderer Leopold Bloom) Chatten bleakly recalls “drinking with the tourists and fighting in front of them” in the pouring rain. With home on the mind, Skinty Fia conjures a more mature, introspective image of the band, contemplating their heritage and its perception across the Irish sea.
Chatten really comes to the fore in the stripped-back and folky The Couple Across the Way, set against a simple yet moving accordion. Fontaines are rarely better than when their poet-philosopher of a frontman spins a tall tale with haunting depth and insight.
It seems Skinty Fi could apply to much of the album’s material: the difficulty of knowing where home is, the feeling of otherness from fame or factionalism. However, leaning into these sticky subjects, Fontaines DC have pulled off a masterwork of creative spirit and storytelling that surely puts them in arm’s reach of the nation’s best.
Skinty Fia is released on 22nd April 2022. For further information or to order the album visit Fontaines DC’s website here. The album is available in Hi-Res on Qobuz and all the major streaming services.
Watch the video for the single Skinty Fia here: