I was petrified, frozen. Not out of fear, but out of curiosity. Looking up from the crowd, I was shrouded by a manic and frenzied energy pacing wildly above me. It had manifested in the form of a single glance in my direction from Grian Chatten, FONTAINES D.C.’s harbinger of song and style.
I wanted to move — to throw my hands up and mirror the heavy staccato of the drums and run through the crowd, following suit with the trance-like pace of Chatten, who was rubbing his hands together, pulling on his hair, biting his nails, eyes cast into the crowd, never settling — but my eyes stayed fixated on what was in front of me. “Look at me,” I thought to myself. “Look at me. Wait. No. Don’t. Look there, look there.” They were spirited, yet they had gazes that seemed far-off and intimate. I felt every bone in my body rattle and I was anchored to the ground. Do I dare look into the eyes of a madman?
Hailing from Dublin, FONTAINES D.C. proudly recite the ways of their world through steady incantations of the trials and greater philosophies of life, always in the manic manner painted for you above, of which I was lucky enough to witness first-hand thanks to a last-minute suggestion on the first day of SXSW 2019.
Lyrically, each song on their debut album, Dogrel, proves to take on the nature of a higher colloquialism, a modern post-punk litany, with pub talk roots and enough fuel to rally every dark horse and hard-working misfit within earshot. These men aren’t mad. They know exactly what they’re doing. From beginning to end, Dogrel carries all the weight of aspirational greed, festering delusions and cheeky mockery, while speaking with such honesty that discloses a shockingly refreshing sense of clairvoyance, challenging and transcending any personal conviction one may hold about the world and their role within it. FONTAINES D.C. is synonymous to running through a back-alley on a cool summer night and a rough brick scratching your arm on your way around the corner, as you go down a set of grimy stone stairs and make your way into a dim room, sneaking into a corner to speak of the “changing times” in hurried whispers — by candlelight.
Album opener “Big” provokes novice ideals of fame and the rumbling “Too Real” hits four minutes later, with a tune carried by a bottle being carefully dragged along guitar strings and Chatten’s unique sing-speak atop deep percussion and urgent melodies. “Hurricane Laughter” hovers over your shoulder, repeating the questionable reminder that “There is no connection available.” “Television Screens,” “The Lotts” and “Dublin City Sky” pardon the rest of the abrasive and shifting album, while still not letting up on the importance of mundane moments and genuine passion that coexist as each day goes by.
Dogrel is a force. It sends you spinning through rooms, occasionally glancing over your shoulder to be sure no one is following, picking at the dirt under your nails as the clock tick-tick-ticks and rain strikes the windows. You catch a glimpse of yourself in a mirror hanging in a quiet hall as you pass by. Tick-tick-tick. You stop. You smile to yourself.