Dublin’s Johnny Marr-approved Fontaines D.C. punch up the romance on their second album
Artist: Fontaines D.C.
Album: A Hero’s Death
Label: Partisan Records
★★★★ (4/5 stars)
The best thing that happened to Fontaines D.C. ahead of their second album, A Hero’s Death, was Johnny Marr shouting the Irish band out on his Instagram Stories.
If Fontaines D.C.’s 2019 Mercury Prize-nominated debut, Dogrel, passed you by, Marr made sure the group’s speedy follow-up certainly didn’t.
“Clever, good rocking rifts, good band, smart,” he proclaimed of the Fontaines in a recent Instagram AMA.
One year brings many changes, most noticeably, a marked shift away from the rough and ready post-punk sound that made Dogrel such a stripped and satisfying listen. Instead, A Hero’s Death features polished and produced indie-punk sounds whose sentiments are wrapped up in its title.
At the forefront of shaping Fontaines D.C.’s musical direction is multi-talented producer Dan Carey (Bat for Lashes, Black Midi, Kate Tempest). The overarching feel of A Hero’s Death is of gloom and darkness. This is exemplified on “Love is the Main Thing,” where vocalist Grian Chatten’s monotone mopes give off the vibe that he’s trying to convince himself of the song title’s idea.
In contrast, “Living in America” has an Iggy-like snarl and formidable drum rumble to it and the title track, with its mantra-like chant/shouts of “life ain’t always empty,” against a bouncy beat backdrop is pogo-worthy. These two songs are the only ones on A Hero’s Death that fall naturally as the sonic successors to Dogrel. Going in this direction for A Hero’s Death would have been a more natural move than the songwriting decisions made seemingly as a contrary reaction to the positive impact Dogrel made on Fontaines D.C.’s fans.
The album slows down with closers, “Sunny” and “No.” The former shares a ballad-like swing with “You Said” that soften the few edges A Hero’s Death has while the latter wraps it on kind of a downer.
If you find yourself walking away from A Hero’s Death singing Echo and the Bunnymen’s “Lips Like Sugar” and/or Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You,” that’s likely because the guitar riffs of “Televised Mind” and plucks of “Oh Such A Spring,” respectively, sound like lusterless carbon copies of those classic tunes.