Lying under canvas, by a lake, dans le francais, at about 5am, with foxes howling, ducks quacking and the sound of fish jumping out and splashing back into the water, unable to return to sleep, I was looking for a hero’s death.
Life ain’t always empty but mildly hungover and irritable, woken by wildlife, knees aching, the cup was a quarter full. The boys from the better land, or not, entered my earbuds, and I didn’t belong to anyone.
If album one was dogrel, the sounds of the city streets, then album two is universal. Take the boys out of Dublin, for a long, long time and your mind alters, warps, contorts to adapt and a survival instinct kicks in.
Whether that instinct is advised, whatever your poison, the individual does what it does to survive. You are supposed to be enjoying it, you are, but the abuse of your mind and body in whatever form, cannot be sustained. Sitting on a bus in No-wheres-ville U.S.A could be lonely, even surrounded by your brothers. You can be lonely because of your location, nowhere familiar, nowhere that feels like home for months and months and months.
This album is dark. There is light but it is in the cracks in the blind, the sun breaking through a bank of grey clouds. ‘I Don’t Belong’, ‘A Hero’s Death’ and ‘No’ suggests negativity. However, when your mood is in the lower registers, the morning is not quite here, an eerie half light is painting the still water green, Fontaines DC are a monochrome blue tint. Comforting and caressing the soul before the dawn.
Melancholy does not have to be downcast, demure, or downtrodden. It can understand. It can voice your inner thoughts and echo.
They were gonna be big, they are, but they have moved on from wishing on that star. By not concerning themselves with what they needed to do, they concentrated on what they wanted to do, what they felt they had to do instinctively. They could never be anything but themselves.
If the opening gambit from their debut was a mission statement, then ‘I Don’t Belong’ is dialling the expectation and hype back a few and taking an inward look as to whether they wanted the adulation in the first place.
The tempo is low, in the main, even when the drums suggest the mood is up, every other element is fighting against it. Track two ‘Love is the Main Thing’ has a locomotive percussion, but Grian is deep, voice low, like it is driving through the dead of night. If love is the main thing then he hasn’t got it anymore.
If ‘Televised Mind’ hints at a brighter note, it is still digging away at the popular culture of instant television gratification and that everyone’s conversation is streamed from show to brain to mouth; all over hypnotic loops, tugging at the over-sized sleeves of psych.
‘Lucid Dream’ sounds more like a nightmare, a night terror where he is being chased down the road by an unseen entity. He seems more unhinged than on anything they produced previously but never more convincing. He may not have the voice of a Jeff Buckley, more Shane MacGowan, but it is utterly engaging. The unmistakable lilt in his voice, almost spoken, however on cuts such as ‘You Said‘ and ‘Oh Such a Spring’ there is a lullaby quality that coats the lugholes in wistful nostalgia that almost calls sleep again, but the subject grabs you by your cerebral cortex and drags you back in.
The issue Fontaines DC may have with this record, and indeed it has already been said, that there will be those who clung on to the brash, sing-a-long crowd favourites that have the drunks and the characters singing their pub tunes about escaping. They want a rehash, they want What’s the Story after Definitely Maybe not This is Hardcore after Different Class. They want the “punk” not the slower, thoughtful version of Fontaines DC.
Well they can’t have it. That band doesn’t exist. This band doesn’t exist. Already they will have something new. No sooner was Dogrel done, then A Hero’s Death was being written, recorded and finished before the world stopped turning. Stuck somewhere on the Emerald Isle they will probably have another album done. Lyrics will be in a notebook. They will almost definitely be ready for Dan Carey’s call.
Descending vocals, reverb, thundering drum, ’Living in America’ appears to be suggesting they’re off to the land of the “free”, done with Dublin, done with London, but also warning not to be the cocky new face in town.
‘No’; guttural, emotional imperfect beauty. Yes. All the before. You don’t know why the corners of your eyes are wet, why there is a lump in the throat “even though you don’t know/you feel”. Yes, you do Grian, you do indeed.
Maybe listening to this record under canvas is the best place to absorb it. Something about the half-light, the great outdoors, the crap outdoors, that feeling you may just rather be somewhere else now.