Album Review: Fontaines D.C.—Dogrel

There is perhaps no more buzzed about band right now than Dublin-based post-punks Fontaines D.C. Between touring with IDLES, leaving audiences in awe at SXSW, and receiving heaps of critical acclaim, the band has a lot to live up to with the release of their debut album, Dogrel, out April 12 on Partisan Records. Does it live up to the hype?

Over half of the material on Dogrel has been heard before, as it’s new versions of previously released songs, though that does nothing to lessen their impact. “Big” serves as a tremendous opener, as well as being a mission statement of sorts for the rest of the album and the band itself. The drums immediately build tension, followed by the introduction of a blood-pumping bassline before the raucous guitars come in with vocalist Grian Chatten and his incredibly distinct, in-your-face delivery. His voice is loud and prominent in the mix, which is essential, given his nearly spoken word delivery—he needs to be out front, to help ensure listeners don’t miss any of the clever, literary lyrics through the heavy Irish accent.

In fact, the mileage listeners get out of Dogrel could depend entirely on how they handle Chatten’s vocals. His delivery borders on monotone and is sometimes largely tuneless, which brings down some of the slower-paced or softer songs down. The rest of Fontaines D.C. have a dynamism that Chatten sometimes lacks.

On the louder, more aggressive songs, however, Chatten’s voice clicks with the rest of the band to make music that blisters and is absolutely captivating. Tracks like the aforementioned “Big”, exquisite rocker “Hurricane Laughter”, and arguably the best song on the album, “Too Real” brim with intensity that threatens to jump out of the speakers. Fontaines D.C. seem like a band that is best experienced live (as all good bands should be), and it appears they’ve done their best to recreate the live experience on Dogrel; for the most part, it’s safe to say they succeed.

While they may not be the second coming of rock ‘n’ roll some critics have made them out to be (at least not yet), the good certainly outweighs the bad, and when they’re good Fontaines D.C. are truly exceptional. Dogrel is likely to be the album to beat for best debut of 2019.