"As It Stands I'm About To Make A Lot Of Money"
Just a year on from the release of their debut full length record Dogrel, critically acclaimed post-punk revivalists Fontaines D.C have already reappeared, presenting A Hero's Death as their attempt at the dreaded sophomore LP, but where their Mercury-nominated debut was a frantic and raw expression of working class life in Dublin, A Hero's Death is the band from a more honest and vulnerable angle.
Kicking off with 'I Don’t Belong', a haunting cut of menacing riffs and reserved drums, frontman Grian Chatten seems to ponder identity, contemplating his perception as a commercial product and an act for sale. The repeated guitar hooks sit nicely under Chatten’s vocal contributions, and the dashes of spring reverb in the background really push that darker feel Fontaines are clearly striving for. The opener is followed by 'Love Is The Main Thing' which returns to the signature "lets repeat lyrics for four minutes" trademark of the band, but does so with confidence and moody atmospherics. 'Televised Mind' is the first hint of a ‘banger’ on the record. The 70s style bass is paired with a driving rhythm and IV-iv chord shifts, while still retaining the mid-tempo rather than opting for anything crazier. 'Televised' is probably the closest to Dogrel Fontaines get on this record.
The title track is also fantastic. Featuring The Strokes-style guitars, delicate vocal harmonies and rhythms that truly propel this song forward, Chatten once again repeats himself, this time with "life ain’t always empty". Lyrically, this is one of the strongest moments the album has to offer. Across this album we hear more experimental tones and soundscapes, clearly influenced by the Irish bands that ruled before them (early My Bloody Valentine especially - before they turned into earth and ear shattering shoegaze titans), and closing track 'No' finishes off the record with a beautiful guitar-and-vocals track. Twinkly guitar work ducks in and out, and provides an excellent closer.
However, there is one blaring issue with this record. The tracks are fantastic, but they just don’t go anywhere. Yes, this is a post-punk revival band, and the bands they are inspired by did rely on repetition, but regardless of this, it would have been interesting to see more development in song structure. Labelmates IDLES also rely on a repetitive structure to the music-making, but with how aggressive and full-on IDLES' tracks are, it works to consistently greater effect. With slower tracks, they almost become stale. A Hero’s Death seems like a rest stop for the quintet. It is a slower burn than the debut, and seems to rely more on dreary atmospheres and soundscapes than fast and noisy ones. The most obvious influence is Joy Division, but Fontaines are at times tightrope-walking the line between influence and direct emulation. While the signature sound of the Irish band are there, there are still some sections in which they could have been lifted off of Unknown Pleasures (particularly Sunny and Living In America).
The sophomore album is one that is dreaded by so many. It makes or breaks bands, but Fontaines, despite only being a year on from the first, have shown dramatic development and evolution. A Hero’s Death will divide fans and critics alike. Fans expecting another gritty and up-tempo like Dogrel will be disappointed. This is Fontaines at their most honest and raw. And while it may not be as instantly enjoyable as Dogrel, this second record provides deeper layers, better songwriting and some truly haunting moments.
- 7.7 -
'I Don't Belong', 'Televised Mind', 'No'
James Mellen is a very bored student in his final year of compulsory education, waiting to study music production and performance at degree level. He is passionate about music, guitars and music. He also watches films sometimes.
Thanks for reading! Slow Motion Panic Masters is a music, arts and culture blog created and edited by Ben Wheadon, a literature student and musician based in South Wales.