Skinty Fia, the third and most recent studio album by Fontaines D.C., was released worldwide on April 22, further developing their macabre yet upbeat sound into an emotional and well-spoken LP for the ages. After placing themselves on the map with their debut, Dogrel, and solidifying their importance with the Grammy-nominated A Hero’s Death, Fontaines D.C.’s newest work continues their musical climb.
Recently displaced from their native Dublin, the band, made up of lead singer Grian Chatten, guitarists Conor Curley and Carlos O’Connell, bassist Conor Deegan, and drummer Tom Coll, harps on this new lifestyle found in London, melancholically describing their longing for home in a city that doesn’t fully accept them. The album traverses these themes while placing Irish pride at the forefront, never aberrating from the city and nation that formed them.
“In ár gCroíthe go deo,” opens the album with a slow and booming sound, setting the drab tone so indicative of the band’s writing. Translating to mean “in our hearts forever,” the title rings in the background throughout the entirety of the song. The song details the recent, true struggle of an Irish family attempting to bury their mother in England. English officials refused to allow the song’s title to be placed on the tombstone as they believed the words to be a political statement. Fighting back against the decision, Chatten screams “she defines the only reason for feeling,” decrying his sentiments against the extremely authoritative and suppressive English government.
The second song on the album, the only one written by guitarist Carlos O’Connell, details his struggle with the band’s rise in fame. “Big Shot” balances the inflated ego and the naive mind against a delicately paced backdrop of loud guitar riffs and booming drums. The beating kit highlights the peak of drummer Tom Coll’s career, as his evolution from simple yet loud punk-influenced beats to the intricate rhythm of his modern work cements him as a crucial contributor to the band’s trudging rhythm.
Following the melancholy of fame, “How Cold Love Is,” deals with familial strife and addiction within one’s family. Chatten described it in an interview with Rolling Stone as “the sort of duality of things to both comfort you, provide you with warmth and encouragement and safety, and at the same time while doing that, rob all the change from your back pocket.” Supported heavily by the constant droning of Connor Deegan’s bass, the song is a solid reminder of the band’s repetitive and familiar style that gained them their current fame.
“Jackie Down the Line” revisits the first single released by the band in anticipation of the album. Delineating a new sound while maintaining Chatten’s blaring and yearning vocals, this song marks a new beginning for the band. High production value is evident, moving from their humble roots of recording Dogrel in an almost closet-sized studio. The effects-heavy guitars and underlying electronic whirring send the band into the modern era.
The next two songs on the album detail the band’s move from their home of Dublin to the unknown city of London. “Bloomsday,” inspired by James Joyce’s Ulysses, is almost a love song for Dublin. Describing its persistent rain and darkness, the song embraces what the band has just lost. Immediately after, however, “Roman Holiday” reconciles the love lost in the band’s new city. From feeling exiled to embracing the city, Chatten describes the song as “a celebration of that flipping, from it being a bad thing into a positive thing.”
“The Couple Across The Way” shifts the album back in time, taking inspiration from old Irish folk songs. Planning to add a second album of strictly traditional Irish songs, this track was ultimately the one that made the cut into the LP. A slow, soft reflection of the duality between old and new love, the song’s never-changing style adds a quietly somber break to the loudness of Skinty Fia. Simply backed by a toy accordion, the song certainly deviates from anything Fontaines D.C. has done before.
Before closing the album, two more pre-released singles return the album’s gloomy, earnest, and clamorous tone to the forefront. The eponymous “Skinty Fia” features an electronic rhythm reminiscent of the New Wave era that has never been heard from the traditional instrumentation of the band. Meaning “the damnation of the deer,” the song blatantly addresses the doom that a Dubliner faces in London. Faced with oppression and negligence, the band and thousands of other Irish people in England are forced to cope with these unruly feelings.
“I Love You” tells more of the same, as “the man who profits” professes his love for Dublin, only looking for money in return. Debasing helpless government programs and social movements, Chatten almost fights with the man throughout the song, creating a unique duality. What makes this song great, however, is again the work of Tom Coll. Entering the song with an assertive yet seemingly-haphazard beat, he drives it forward, never failing.
The album ends with “Nabokov,” clearly heavily influenced by the author most famously known for Lolita. A modern and beautiful post-punk piece, Chatten’s screaming verses are markedly desperate yet sarcastic at the same time. Culminating in this cacophony, the album ends on a high note, making a repeat listen all too easy.
Skinty Fia not only cements itself as one of the best albums of the year, but it also solidifies Fontaines D.C. as one of the most prolific and promising bands of our era. Their harsh tones and passionate moods combined with the utter artistry of Chatten’s poetry make them a band to remember. Experimenting with new sounds while staying true to its Irishly punk style, Skinty Fia is an auspicious new beginning for Fontaines D.C.