Words by Erin Christie
I’ve been an outspoken supporter of Irish band Fontaines D.C. ever since I was introduced to them by friends following the release of their absolutely brilliant debut album, Dogrel, in 2019. That same fall, I was lucky enough to catch the band during their U.S. debut at the now shuttered Great Scott in Boston, and the memory of that sweat-soaked but joyous night still exists in a cavity close to my heart.
During the height of the COVID lockdown the next year, I was relieved to have a new Fontaines D.C. record to accompany me on my lonesome, a momentary distraction from the utterly bleak landscape that persisted at that time. The arrival of A Hero’s Death, despite the unfortunate timing, marked a definitive period of evolution for the group, wherein a gorgeous melodic overtone met the honest brutalism of their former release. For this effort, the band received a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Album alongside another nod for International Group at the Brit Awards and Album of the Year at the Choice Music Prize.
Fontaines D.C.’s third record, Skinty Fia (released in 2022), understandably had a lot of buildup behind it, with critics anticipating the next step in the band’s journey with bated breath. It’s been a bit over a year since its (unsurprising) praise-stricken release, and now, the band returns with an extended cut decked out with covers, remixes, and live versions — Skinty Fia go deo (out now via Partisan). It’s easy for me to say that this is a welcome addition to my current regular rotation, as Skinty Fia on its own has been there all along.
As soon as the strings entered the Live At Glastonbury take of “Big Shot” on my first full listen, I truly felt tears of joy begin to well in the corners of my eyes. Combined with the heartfelt applause that rings out as the track closes, it’s enough to make a grown man break down (and in this case, I’m said grown man). The brand new stripped version of “The Couple Across The Way” is equally as moving, not only for the lighthearted yet haunting nature of the simplicity, but also for the lyrical content that remains just as devastatingly raw as it is in the original version.
Something that’s absolutely stunning about Fontaines D.C., to me, is their unwavering ability to force my heart into a run of absolute twists and turns, while also experiencing an overwhelming urge to thrash about in a fit of totally blissful hysteria (see “Nabakov” and “Roman Holiday,” along with countless others). To me, they’re one of those bands that I can listen to and consistently feel a smile creeping onto my face while I do so, no matter the occasion.
The image of frontman Grian Chatten sat at a pub, scrawling poetry on napkins, is one that persists while devouring Fontaines’ discography. It’s possibly cliche to remark that a songwriter one admires seems to compose lyrics like a poet of yesteryear, but I truly believe that to be the case when it comes to Chatten. With tracks off Skinty Fia such as “I Love You” (which also finds a new life in a new Skinty Fia Sessions version), this is utterly apparent in the vast, grandiose, and undoubtedly beautiful descriptions of his deeply felt love for the subject of the track — “I love you til the grass around my gravestone is deceased.” This new extension also exhibits a pair of covers that contain a similar sense of emotional weight to the band’s own material — one being their version of “Twinkle” by the dissolved Irish group Whipping Boy, and the other, U2’s “One” (which they also covered for Apple Music’s Home Sessions last year). Each, while being great covers on a surface level, also serve as a great example of the group’s individualism, their unequivocal magnetism due in part to their employment of angelic harmonies and swirling, hypnotic instrumental sequences.
This past weekend, I had the continued honor of watching Fontaines D.C. perform at two sold-out Forest Hills Stadium shows in support of Arctic Monkeys. Recalling my previous experiences seeing them live as I watched them being received by such a big crowd on two consecutive nights was a bit emotional, honestly. It’s been a pleasure to continue to watch the group reach new heights as the years pass and there’s no question in my mind that they’re only going to continue to climb an upward trajectory.
Listen to the brand new release, Skinty Fia go deo, on all DSPs via Partisan Records now. Find more information on the band and what they’re up to now via their website and socials (below).