By Alexandra Rosbotham – Arts and Entertainment Editor
It’s been 3 years since the Dublin City quintet’s rough and rowdy debut “Dogrel”. Which opened with a chorus which once felt cocky, but now feels more like a prophecy; “but I’m gonna be big!”. Looking back, it’s no surprise that Fontaines D.C. have reached such heights within such a short span of time. Across their three LPs, Fontaines D.C. have shown us many aspects of their musical abilities, from the more unsettled, angsty and boisterous punk of “Dogrel” to the more nihilistic, gloomy yet equally as heavy “A Hero’s Death”; an album which feels like it sits at the other end of the spectrum from their critically acclaimed debut. “Skinty Fia”, meaning “The damnation of the deer” as gaeilge – is a term used as an expletive or exclamation. Their third LP offers an insight into the perspective of their home nation through the Irish diasporas’ eye and the experience of their Irishness having become the “Boys In the Better Land”; like many other young people due to the serious issues that have been making modern day Ireland an increasingly more difficult place to live as a young person.
“Skinty Fia” feels like a comfortable balance and in-between of either end of the spectrum its predecessors “Dogrel” and “A Hero’s Death” sit at. Throughout, the album offers apt commentary on their new lifestyles in London where four members of the band have now relocated to. In an interview with NME, drummer Tom Coll said “When Irish people move to Dublin they wear their identities on their sleeves more… it’s difficult to try and stay in touch with the culture while you’re not there. You find yourself grappling with so much guilt because you want to make the country better while you’re away”. It’s this sense of Irishness in England in particular that can be felt so strongly throughout “Skinty Fia” as it grapples between the uncomfortableness of living in a nation which was once an oppressor to your people that still deals with discrimination and an unwelcome attitude towards Irish emigrants. This is touched on throughout, like on “Roman Holiday” where frontman Grian sings “I don’t want to see the Queen / I already sing her song”. The culmination of this Irish experience in England can be heard on “In ár gCroíthe go deo”, a phrase meaning “In our hearts forever”. The eerie and hymn like opening track pays tribute to the late Margaret Keane, an Irish women who lived in Coventry for most of her life who passed aged 73. Having planned to have the phrase engraved on her headstone, a court of the Church of England ruled against it stating it was “too political”. Like much of the Irish community, the anger of this decision strongly resonated with the five lads and culminated in this tribute of a track in its wake. In NME, frontman Grian Chatten stated “The story really hit home, because we were about to move to a place where this shit is happening… I just found it very revealing; it unravelled this cynical distrust in the British perception of Ireland. It was like, ‘Ah, but you’ve never really trusted us, have you?!”.
Throughout “Skinty Fia”, it’s clear to see the rose-tinted glasses have come off and the rowdy and “rough-round-the-edges” charm of Dublin City has faded as the band reflect on the issues of their home country that have driven them to leave, like thousands of others do each year. On “I Love You” Chatten almost shouts at the climax of the song antagonised by the failures of the government and various issues plaguing the country, including the ever-growing male suicide rate and the Tuam Mother and Baby Home scandal among others. “But this island’s run by sharks with children’s bones stuck in their jaws / And they say they love the land, but they don’t feel it go to waste / Makes flowers read like broadsheets, every young man wants to die / Say it to the man who profits and the bastard walks by”.
“Skinty Fia” is a beautiful yet heartbreakingly honest tribute to their home of Dublin City and Ireland as a whole, in a time where it feels as if the love and patriotism for their country isn’t reciprocated enough for it to want to keep its young people from moving away. It’s a snapshot of what plagues the nations youth and expats, wrapped up in a dark, industrial, punk/shoegaze-tinged album that gives their two previous award-winning a real run for their money, and I urge you to give this fantastic LP (and potentially Best Album of the Year contender) a listen before it becomes as well awarded as it’s predecessors.