Fontaines D.C’s artistic authenticity is key to their survival. Maintaining the group’s by-the-throat post-punk sound, the band’s third offering expands the scope musically, thematically and aesthetically. Far from the feral shores of their debut Dogrel, Fontaines D.C. undergoes a sonic sea change via the turbulent thematic tides of Skinty Fia.
Establishing their intentions from the get-go, the bare vocal harmonies that form the bedrock of the opening track ‘In ár gCroíthe go deo’ rest upon tense strumming and crashing rhythms. These contrasting textures meld within the over-arching atmospheric agitation of Skinty Fia. Followed by the growling undercurrent of ‘Big Shot’, Fontaines D.C. uses new colors and shapes to form their powerful music and sculpts their sound into something bigger yet still vital.
Essential to the being of Skinty Fia is Fontaines ability to craft mood and meaning within the rumble. On tracks like the angular ‘Jackie Down The Line, ‘ lines like “What good is happiness to me. If I’ve to wield it carefully?” have a malaise that reverberates in their story. And the Fontaines are storytellers. The slow dirge of ‘The Couple Across The Way’ captures empty isolation and separation. At the same time, the scratching forward-motion of the title track hangs lines like “Heard he took ’em all down to the mercenary bar. I heard she broke up with her fella now, he’s drinkin’ in his car” convey multitudes.
However, ‘I Love You’ steals the show. Fontaines best work to date, the song melds the band’s ability to impart meaning in every beat, melody and word. Shimmering and striking, there’s a power to each twist and turn of ‘I Love You’. Matching each other’s intensity, the societal, political and generational frustration is encapsulated in the pointed vocal delivery of “They say they love the land, but they don’t feel it go to waste. Hold a mirror to the youth, and they will only see their face. Makes flowers read like broadsheets; every young man wants to die. Say it to the man who profits, and the bastard walks by”. Enough said.
And so it goes; bands rarely maintain their vitality three albums in. All too often, directionless rust sets in. Fontaines D.C barge right past this potential pitfall by adding more sonic scope to deliver their music. The untamed rattle and hum of their early days have been left behind. In its place is something grander but far more consequential.