Label: Partisan Records
Released: 22nd April 2022
Fontaines D.C. have always been open about the inspiration they draw from their surroundings. ‘Dogrel’, their debut, was a portrait of a fast-disappearing Dublin, while follow-up ‘A Hero’s Death’ was shot through with the dislocation of a life on the road.
New album ‘Skinty Fia’ sees the band in a fresh setting once more, having moved to London during the pandemic. But instead of a metaphorical walk through the London smog, this is an album full of the remembered Ireland of a diaspora community, deeply embedded in the city, but distinct from its native population. It’s an album about what it means to be a foreigner in a country that has historically been incredibly hostile to your homeland.
Nowhere is this more clear than in the seething anger of opening track ‘In ár gCroithe go deo’. The title is Irish for “in our hearts forever”, a phrase that a family were not allowed to put on a grave without a translation lest it be seen as a “political statement” due to “the passions and feelings connected with the use of Irish Gaelic”. It feels tailor-made as a response to those who would say discrimination against the Irish is ancient history.
On the flipside, previously released single ‘I Love You’ is heartfelt and genuinely beautiful in a way that it would have been hard to imagine the band making when they first kicked in the door of the ‘South London Scene’ back in 2018. ‘The Couple Across the Way’ is also a departure for the band, played exclusively on a hand accordion and skirting closer to Irish trad music than anything they’ve previously released.
More striking than the individual tracks is how they all fit together, contextualising and playing off each other in a way that few albums manage. Lead single ‘Jackie Down the Line’ is still the most impressive standalone offering, but even this is deepened and improved by how it rubs shoulders with the songs either side.
With their third album, Fontaines D.C. have grappled with weightier topics, experimented with more genres, and pushed themselves further than they have in the past. What’s even more impressive is that in doing so they’ve made their best album yet. ‘Skinty Fia’ is made up of so many influences that it should be creaking under its own weight, yet is somehow such a unified whole that it’s hard to imagine how it could be improved.