THE OPENING riff of the title track to Fontaines D.C.’s new album will have people of a certain age feel a need to cry, “Last night, she said, Oh, baby, I feel so down…”
And it is at that moment the initial zest of the riff alters. The pace and energy remain upbeat but the chords shift to a descending pattern, creating an nervous, ominous feel.
Over this, lead singer Grian Chatten chants “Life ain’t always empty” and offers a series of upbeat maxims, but the more it goes on, the less it feels like an anthem of optimism for troubled times, more an increasingly desperate attempt to stay positive - and the song is all the better for this ambiguity.It is the undoubted highlight on the Dublin band’s second album - coming 16 months after their rightly acclaimed debut, Dogrel.
''I Don’t Belong’ feels more akin to a declaration of independence than a cry of isolation'
While the band’s fascinating mix of post-punk and the Velvet Underground (witness ‘I Was Not Born’ ), with roots in the Pogues and The Dubliners remains present and correct, A Hero’s Death finds them stretching out to create something both familiar, and not exactly so.Opening track, ‘I Don’t Belong’ shows their post-punk has become darker, moodier, more unsettling. Yet creative ambiguity again works so well, as it feels more akin to a declaration of independence, than a cry of isolation.
The main guitar figure of ‘Oh Such A Spring’ hints of Jeff Buckley and the mellower end of Metallica; while the loping ‘Sunny’ has elements of The Smiths. Yet neither track is overwhelmed by their influences, both quickly morph into a reflectiveness that is characteristic of Fontaines D.C. ‘Sunny’ also shows the band exploring new avenues for their sound. The female and male backing vocals and string arrangements serve to heighten the atmosphere and theme of dislocation (“Where I was I can’t tell” ) brilliantly.
This is still Fontaines D.C., but older, darker, and grimmer, yet they remain defiant, still unrepentant, and still a vital voice with plenty of worth to say.