Nominated for the illustrious Mercury Prize, a series of standout festival performances (including two shows at Glastonbury), a growing reputation as one of the best live bands out there, and a debut LP that punctuates a moment in time; 2019 definitely belongs to the boisterous Irish punk five-piece, Fontaines D.C.
Their debut album, Dogrel, is awash with sharp social commentary - courtesy of lead singer Grian Chatten - and an unpolished clash of meaty musicianship, which should feature heavily in the best of 2019 round-ups next month.
From the anthemic ‘Boys In The Better Land’ via the drunken drawl of ‘Dublin City Sky’ to the fast and furious ‘Big’, it’s is a no-nonsense, straight-up, punk rock ’n’ roll record that is unapologetic yet romantic, and set against the backdrop (pardon the pun) of Brexit. As an album, it feels as quintessentially Irish as James Joyce.
As live bands go, they are a force to be reckoned with, amalgamating This Is It era Strokes, the driving psych of The Horrors' debut LP and a sprinkling of The Pogues’ alcohol-soaked heartbreak for good measure.
On Tuesday night, they blew The O2 Ritz in Manchester to pieces in a raucous 60-minute show that tested the venues sprung floor to its limit.
Chatten’s manic persona stalked the stage like a kid with ADHD who doesn’t know what to do with his hands, alongside his band members' driving bass lines and big walls of sound. The show is dark and gloomy but juxtaposed with subtle hints of melody and a pop sensibility underpinning some of their more accessible songs. It’s a blink and you’ll miss it performance, which leaves the crowd gasping for air.
The band’s standout year and debut album were not quite enough to scoop them the Mercury unfortunately, the worthy winner being Streatham-born rapper Dave, with his critically-lauded album Psychodrama.
However, the nomination alone is enough to highlight a pivotal twelve months for the band and some well deserved recognition on a twelve-act shortlist which champions the very best in UK releases.
With their difficult second album due in 2020, Fontaines D.C. don’t look like the type of band who are phased by expectations or will steer too far from their winning formula. Be sure to catch them in a town near you before the year is out and before they go back to the drawing board.
Words by Sam Kershaw
Image: Fonatines D.C.