A band who belonged to the world for a season locate themselves again
Lucy Sheehan
16:55 28th July 2020

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Fontaines D.C.’s stunning sophomore A Hero’s Death is an album with complexity and style: one that is reflective, dissonant and internal.
 
Haunting opener 'I Don't Belong' is charged with Grian Chatten’s characteristically illustrative lyrics floating above a texture of Sonic Youth-flavoured coolness. Already, Chatten’s lyrical landscape feels more distant and abstract than on debut Dogrel, as if written from his “annex of the earth”. The reserved chorus “I don’t belong to anyone/ I don’t want to belong...” sung in unselfconscious style, evokes a band who belonged to the world for a season and are locating themselves again.
 
That meditative foreboding is expanded in 'Love is the Main Thing'. Evolving over a cycling percussive texture like a broken washing machine, the lyrics are a cynical expression of growing disassociation with reality – “tired of embracing/using and wasting”. 'Televised Mind' seems to pursue that dialogue on availability vs distance. Chatten reflects on the modern tendency to exploitatively broadcast the inner life, a cacophony of over-sharing like “gulls in the sky, they all mimic love’s cry”.
 
The softer moments of A Hero’s Death signal most clearly the album’s shift away from Dogrel’s place-centric extraversion, where ideas were found in the cacophony of the streets. This album operates in inner worlds, in domestic and liminal spaces, emanating out of introspection. 'You Said', with its Pixies- esque guitar lines and easy tempo, has an oblique tenderness to it, and the opening lines “you said you’ve been on the brink so slow down...” seems to emanate from the tearful confines of a touring van.
 
'Oh Such A Spring', with its stark guitars gorgeously reminiscent of Jeff Buckley’s Grace, is another masterfully crafted moment of intimacy. Opening lines “Down by the docks/the weather was fine/the sailors were drinking American wine/and I wished I could go back to spring” show Chatten’s deployment of childlike rhyming, deftly conjuring poignant sweetness. There is an element of early Leonard Cohen in the clash between high detail and sentiment. Penultimate track ‘Sunny’ - which feels wonderfully like Beach Boys through a mangle - has it too: easy swells in the arrangements create an elegant union of innocence and world-weariness.
 
As easily as they construct subtle nuance, Fontaines D.C. are equally at home with broad strokes. The title track reels off flawless lines like “Don’t sacrifice your life for your health” - a deeply refreshing lyric amid a 21st century [understandably] plagued by hypochondria and quick fix self-help apps. 'Living in America' with its rich, dark harmonies, possesses a particularly aggressive cynicism. A wild reference to shiny US pop-punkers Blink-182, with a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it twist on a line from ‘All the Small Things’ illustrates the dissociation from having seen the world’s conceited side. The lines “one for all, all for one” are deployed with mournful sarcasm. 'I Was Not Born' is a deft take on the classic anarchic anthem, thrashing along like a sped-up Velvet Underground track to the assertion “I was not born into this world to do another man’s bidding.”
 
A Hero’s Death is a serious and rare achievement, particularly from a band that could have satisfied everyone with more of the same, and instead chose to evolve.
 
 
A Hero's Death arrives 31 July via Partisan Records.

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