In an era of frequently unjustified success in the music industry, Fontaines D.C. are a true exception. An Irish post-punk band that counts the poetry of W.B. Yeats and Allen Ginsberg, aka the father of the Beat Generation, among their sources of inspiration. Critics often label charismatic frontman Grian Chatten as the Ian Curtis of our generation—no doubt in part inspired by his epileptic and all-encompassing stage presence but equally by his on-stage uniform, often consisting of Adidas sweatpants in a similar, albeit different, way to the utilitarian and austere workwear so beloved by Curtis.
In the era of TikTok, the Kardashians, Måneskin, and bad taste über alles, Fontaines D.C. brought rock back not only to its liturgical, messianic, and aesthetic essence but to the top of the pops too. Within a week of its release in April 2022, their third album Skinty Fia, went to number one in the UK Albums Chart. An even bigger surprise came from Italy, where the album debuted at twelfth place in the charts. The band was also voted NME magazine’s Best Band in the World at the BandLab Awards last year. Further confirmation of success for a group that had already been nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Rock Album with their previous release A Hero’s Death. In short, Fontaines D.C. are the equivalent of the indie film that miraculously breaks the box office, both in the UK and in our frankly trashy country. Skinty Fia is an Irish expression that Chatten heard drummer Tom Coll’s aunt say and it means “the damnation of the deer”. For him, it symbolises the condition of necessary estrangement that the Irish encounter when they leave their homeland and, indeed, four out of five band members live in London. But even with Ireland all that way away, a sense of Irish Catholicism remains; not in a didactic sense, mind you, but we are dealing with music that, in one way or another, takes you to another place and this transportive, if somewhat aimless, spirit imparts a lesson with an ahistorical, moral and unconsciously preceptive aftertaste. Emblematic of all this is, in my opinion, the band’s performance of the song Big Shot at Glastonbury Festival last year, with that violin arrangement and Grian’s microphone stand set higher than it should be and the DEADLY tattoo on his arm. To really understand the band’s spirit and psychogeography, I highly recommend the Netflix special showing the group’s lockdown gig at Kilmainham Gaol, a former prison and now museum in the Dublin suburbs. And as if you needed any more reason to love ‘em, know that all the proceeds from this show were donated to the Focus Ireland association to help homeless families and young people. Now more than ever, Fontaines D.C. are the spokespeople for the powerful return of indie sleaze to the Gen Z sphere of influence, so it should come as no surprise that their fans include it-girl Alexa Chung, who is, among other things, the former partner of the most indie frontman in the world aka Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys. Fontaines D.C. are the Dubliners of our generation, complete with Scarface t-shirt, magmatic aura and a pipe dream to one day duet with Lana Del Rey, as they declared in a recent interview. Worth the hype? It’s a categorical yes from me.