fri 03/02/2023

Albums of the Year 2022: Fontaines DC - Skinty Fia | reviews, news & interviews

Albums of the Year 2022: Fontaines DC - Skinty Fia

Albums of the Year 2022: Fontaines DC - Skinty Fia

The Irish post-punk band's bleak instant classic

'Skinty Fia' - Dublin noir with a Joycean liltPartisan

This is not a rehash of my Skinty Fia review, but smoke from the same grate.

Asbury Park, New Jersey, 5 October – we've driven down from NYC to see Fontaines DC play hopefully most of their blistering third album at the Stone Pony venue. Bruce Springsteen and Southside Johnny played here in the Seventies. It's legendary – and bad news for we arthritics. The stage is not at the end of the narrow hall opposite the entrance and the bar but runs along a side wall, so the audience is squashed and stretched in front of it. 

Naturally wanting to get as close as we could to the Irish quintet, or as close as the pit in front of the stage allows, we take our position behind the three Trolls (newly re-animated) from The Hobbit, who've clearly come to hear "In ár gCroíthe go deo" and "Big Shot". They don’t move all night and the Fontaines don’t oblige them with that choral wail of romantic (or national) dread, or that scathing, bellicose putdown of vainglory.

Lest we all cry in our beer, the group also omits “The Couple Across the Way”, the LP’s accordion-accompanied lament for love after two decades have smeared away the shine. (Such a Larkin-ish sentiment from such young guys.)
 
The set throbs with rage and melancholy. Not because of Skinty Fia’s "Bloomsday" specifically, but because the Fontaines’ vibe is Joycean Weltschmerz generally: this is the eerie, crepuscular post-punk Stephen Dedalus and Leo Bloom would’ve grooved to in their “Unknown Pleasures” t-shirts. Sardonic choirboy Grian Chatten prowls the stage, stands on his monitor, fizzes like three-year-old Gazza must have done behind his nursery bars. The band blitzes through several early numbers, then filters in the Skinty Fia songs – "Roman Holiday”, “Nabokov”, “How Cold Love Is”, the bitter title track.
 
And it doesn't matter that it isn't a great show, because that intensifies the pleasurable bleakness. A third of the way in, Carlos O'Connell, the guitarist on the right flank, suffers a busted amp, so he wraps his head in a towel and pretends he's not there. After "Jackie Down the Line", too jaunty for a closer, they go off, returning 20 minutes later after possibly arguing if they should’ve done. 
 
“We’ll do one more,” Chattan snaps. It’s “I Love You” – pure Dublin noir, a J’accuse aimed at the reverberating sociopolitical betrayals of Ireland's young. "Echo, echo, echo, the lights, they go/ The lights, they go, the lights, they go/ Echo, echooooo," Chatten moans as he winds up to bawl again the song’s anguished anthemic rap. Hear it and nine other searing songs at their most pristine on the Fontaines’ finest yet.

Add comment

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters