Fountains DC: Hero’s Death Album Review


The Horsemen of the Apocalypse do not thunder and gallop. They vacillate and stagger, weighed down by the heavy burden of their memory. Slowly they hunt down humanity with an Amazon Prime bundle of heartbreak, war and plague, their approach suggested only by the mechanized drone of social media and wired news. When the end finally comes, everything is so daily and tedious; a moan, not a bang. All around us the party is over and Fontaines DC is the last house band. The setlist is The death of a hero.Slinking seemingly formed entirely from Dublin’s working-class neighborhood The Liberties, the five members have established themselves as bona fide heirs to a centuries-old socialist-bohemian tradition on the 2019 post-punk document. Dogrel, an album that weaved together the lasting groove of Gang of Four and the psychically disruptive poetry of Allen Ginsberg with extremely precocious aplomb. Dogrel was a glaring revelation – part the early Mekons, part James Brown and the Cider Addicted JBs – all of it hinting at a crucial talent booming with the intensity of the live feed.

The jet black comedy of their sequel The death of a hero does nothing to interfere with this view, on the contrary geometrically widening their cantankerous field of vision. Fast, funny and fearless, The death of a hero is a maudlin and manic triumph, a horror film shot like a comedy, equally shocked by the future and handcuffed to history. Memorable tunes and unforgettable phrases erupt like brush fire over the course of 47 minutes, the mood migrating at all times from reckless nihilism to outright rage to radical empathy. As we do these days.

“I don’t belong” is hidden Nation of reverie-threat and nightmarish groove, with singer Grian Chatten’s haunted mantra, “I don’t belong to anyone,” taking on multiple possible meanings on the song’s slow burn. “A Lucid Dream” scrolls like a demented locomotive driven by the punk-blues of the Gun Club, while “Televised Mind” turns the “TV Eye” of the Stooges inward, making manifest PiL’s prophecy of a culture of drugged zombies, too giddy and confused by the endless wave of corporate tech idiots to raise her voice above a monotonous tone.

As a band, Fontaines DC are as powerful as they are versatile, with drummer Tom Coll also proving adept at maintaining the esoteric art-rock feel of “Love Is the Main Thing” and the string-upright homage to Velvet Underground of “I N was not born. Guitarists Conor Curley and Carlos O’Connell harmonize and deconstruct in a more than credible echo of Richard Lloyd and Tom Verlaine from television. On the formidable and disappointing ballad “Oh Such a Spring”, which returns to half of the disc, the group arrives in a state of beautiful rupture.

But the heart of The death of a hero lies in stiff upper lip rockers like the title track, whose incredibly catchy funeral glam is made all the more spooky for its liveliness, somewhat resembling “Ballroom Blitz” following aversion therapy from A clockwork orange. “Life is not always empty!” Chatten states with clergy-barker certainty, and proceeds with eye-catching corporate claims like, “Sit in a light that’s right for you / And look forward to a brighter future.” It is the “Satisfaction” of the Stones in reverse. The consumer is no longer dissatisfied with the product. It is the product that is not satisfied with you.

And then there is the final track, “No”, a big ballad, a perfect climax, a thoughtful progression, when the Fontaines rekindle their well-established bitterness in the service of a larger question: is it a fight that we have probably already lost still worth the fight? When Chatten sings, “Please don’t lock yourself in / just enjoy the gray,” the band’s half-hearted optimism sounds like a blessing. We get knocked down and then maybe, just maybe, we get up.

Acheter: Rough Trade

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