Fontaines D.C.

Three things Ireland does provably well: pints, poetry, and punk. This will not be a story of any of those things....
Fontaines D.C. : Live
Fontaines D.C. : Live

Three things Ireland does provably well: pints, poetry, and punk. This will not be a story of any of those things. This will be a tale of the real sacrament of The Land of Saints and Scholars, and a pack of boys from ancient baronies who have added at least 1,000 pages to the dictionary of what anyone thought Hibernian heroes might come to mean. People from appropriated cultures have a different sense of proprioception, and Ireland is well-known for musical mutineers. Notions of “Irishness” have for centuries been politicized, classicized, romanticized, and even enclasped by the glove puppets of corrupt governments on multiple shores, including Ireland’s own. All of that began, in large part, because those ideas had first been dehumanized past description by outside gazes with lenses focused on little more than looting.

Meanwhile, songs have always been the world’s most sought-after non-extradition locations for open defiance of the deleterious impulses associated with annexation, and if there is one thing almost any Irish person can give you, it will be songs. For all that U2 has unquestionably done to interrogate the auspicatory echo of empire and artfully translate, personalize, and destigmatize conversations around The Troubles since the 1980s, and for every punk rock-paramilitary mural that The Pogues painted on the tartish masks of native-culture defacers, it may have been Sinéad O’Connor who first taught the global listening public what Gaelic really means. Then, The Cranberries, blessedly, made it taste like Tullamore to them. The cascade of allowed narratives, and even the wider Celt-credo conversation itself, goes a bit deaf for nearly a decade afterward – until you get to 2017 and the particular Gaelignite of Fontaines D.C. – aspirant purveyors of what might be fairly called inward-facing ‘Molotov music.’ What caught fire inside Atlanta’s Variety Playhouse on Tuesday, September 27th when they brought their Dublin dive-bar jukebox was not just every heart and mind present, but all overly twee Irish stereotypes that have kept Róisín Dubh in a cultural colic hold since the world was only made.

Grian Chatten

Fontaines D.C. is a minimalist band with a maximalist manifesto and a Mephistophelean air. Signed to Partisan records since 2018, their name is taken from Johnny Fontane in The Godfather and they have been crucially influenced by both the Gilla Band and what it means to be a young, optimistic Irishman in a time of fatalistic attitudes and dizzying social change. Because Grian Chatten (vocals), Tom Coll (drums), Carlos O’Connell (guitar), Conor Curley (guitar), and Conor Deegan III (bass) are all plein air poets, their lyrics are welcome lumbar punctures that call to mind the literary Lollapalooza of Paul Muldoon, and Chatten has unswerving social vision at the wedding depth. However, to suggest that Fontaines’ only seduction lies in being erudite or verse-full is to miss more than half of their point. Yes, “Television Screens” was born a poem before metamorphosing into a song, and yes, there is a tune on Skinty Fia (QRO review) named  “Nabokov”, but you do not need to be close enough to Chatten’s face to spot the storm-lashed eyes or under O’Connell’s ever-airborne feet to see the way this band personifies the danceable danger of Dublin as well as its dispossession with a hard-won parity that comes from living the themes of these stories, not merely reading them. In Chatten’s very mic stance, a powerful perestroika of unposed morse code unto itself, it is patently evident that this is a man who understands the weight of stochastic things, and there is certainly no shortage of tornadic weather within his masculine spirit. Likewise, within every Fontaines song, there is a sustained suspense, a held breath, that matches his lion-dust decisively – in a given glance he may roar or purl at you, and you will welcome either because both will be street-jungle psalms with something worth sharing.

Ireland has a noble heritage of agitators, activists, and non-conformists of the highest order going back to its last chieftains. Ours is a genealogy forged with the unspoken understanding that violence takes many forms and that there are scenarios wherein it becomes the only common language, perhaps especially wherever whole mother tongues are being cut out by the blunt blade of a much sharper kind of imperial, systemic brutality. No one is desirous of turning every bar fight into Burntollet Bridge, and Fontaines D.C. have had the guts to vocally address the softer butter knife Ireland routinely sticks in its own eye with equal furor, and they remain among the most matter-of-fact men in music today to do so. Ireland has been in explicit need of a band that could explain to Ireland, England, and the rest of the world that there is no actual external “Irish question” and never has been. That the application of such a broad stroke finitude has even been attempted toward the division of the Emerald Isle is censorious unto itself because it quietly hinges on the supposition that ever-morphing things can ever be so final. The sore inquiry that does linger is: who is ultimately responsible for the ‘volunteer’ actions of enscripted hands? Can or should any of the writing on those hands be washed away? If so, who does future Ireland become? If not, where does ancient Ireland go?

Since the 2019 release of Dogrel, their recorded-live-to-tape debut album, Fontaines D.C. have been hurling a spanner with blazar jet velocity into the Irish ink well where such ponderances splash and often sink. Theirs is a moving object purposeful enough to spatter any color of painted curb at that. Dogrel would go on to win Album of the Year for Rough Trade and Album of the Year for BBC Radio 6 Music, gaining nominations for Mercury and Choice Music Prizes along the way. Following that extraordinary success with the born-on-the-American-highway hymn of A Hero’s Death in 2020 earned them a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Album in 2021, and now they are back to tour album number three, Skinty Fia, released in May of 2022 and quickly thereafter reaching Number 1 on UK and Irish album charts.

All of this is immensely impressive and they roundly deserve every accolade of every kind that they have received, but this is all also just another part of that Bells-of-Ireland, lace-curtain version of the chronicle that we have already agreed not to tell here today. Instead, let’s now set about stalking a far rarer tiger-heron: that of the true story of how Fontaines D.C. made ornamental razor blades out of the kind of home truths that cut less thoughtful men right down, and the way that their emphatic refusal to engage with their own popularity at anything more than the most perfunctory level has shaped them every day into a more refined instrument for the kind of civic awareness and perceptive elevation that they will not let you give them credit for but that trails them like lightning glories any place they take themselves.

Historically, Irish performers who have even accidentally failed the mass populace’s idea of our ethereality have been received like Dylan plugging in – as though we have committed a betrayal of a blood contract only one party signed. Those Irish artists who willfully pull the plug on the diaphanous Tuath Dé Danann dream wherein they are expected to be pretty topiary animals? Dirty indeed. This was and is the whole mission and message of Fontaines D.C., even down to the words represented by the initials in their name: Dublin City. Emphasis on the urban hyponym. There may well be poetry, but none of it will be pastoral or priestly, and they do not tarry a single toe around touchy topics like taigs, touts, tattie-hawkers, tinkers, prods, or papists. Though the literary soul of this band should be heralded for all its teachings about how to be the thermostat and not the thermometer, to call them a “poet-band,” as some have reductively done (as though poetic could ever be a pejorative?), is to make of them a lazy lipogram wherein the most poignant letter of meaning has been left off. This is to say nothing of the way such a reference pretends all great songs of any genre from anywhere aren’t always simply walking poems.

It is a fairly well-known anecdote that the Fontaines five initially talked mostly of poetry when they met, eventually releasing two collective volumes of their own, the Beat-based Vroom and the Erin-arced Winding. Dogrel is a bit of an ode to the working class poetry traditions of writers like Ogden Nash and William McGonagall and the Fontaines fellows are undeniably the Dark Romantics of satiric realism in song – like what Byron might have been if he had not been an aristocrat, or English. Sure, this is a very Irish thing to collaborate over, but the belief in word-power is by no means relegated to we bookish elves of Éire and the Fontaines D.C. gents would be the first to tell you that they did not invent the idea of the rock band with the winged rhetoric. Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016, never forget.

Ireland is a country chockablock full of loaded words, freighted guns, and burdened stories. It is also one for unintentionally hand-fabricating the men and women meant to relay those stories in their most raucous state, raconteurs designed to regale as much with expertly placed hush as they ever do with our famous loquacity, stewards of whole dying syllabaries. True to that blueprint and for all his natural command of language, Grian Chatten is not known to be a stemwinder when he is onstage. You do not have to hear “Bloomsday” to see that he has, long before that song, admirably infused himself with another valuable Joycean reference entirely: “I will tell you what I will do and what I will not do. I will not serve that in which I no longer believe, whether it calls itself my home, my fatherland, or my church: and I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defense the only arms I allow myself to use – silence, exile, and cunning.” Resplendently reticent, Chatten tends to let the songs alone speak for themselves, which they do, and loudly. “I don’t normally talk during gigs, but I like you, Atlanta,” he gloweringly declares roughly four songs in, then does not speak again for three more. Portrait of an Artist predilections aside, Chatten appears markedly more Yeats than Dubliners in that he leads, always, from the harmonics of the heart. Despite his name being the Gaelic word for “sun,” like the city of his early song settings, he is best revealed in the rain, and he will bring it with him where he must, as he did this night in Atlanta, much to the benefit of all in attendance.

Fontaines’ openers for this show are as essential to your new music collection as clouds are to their chord progressions so go find this group post haste: a London band called Wunderhorse, and more than worthy of their adventuresome name. Catch leadman Jacob Slater as Paul Cook in Danny Boyle’s Sex Pistols Limited Series, Pistol, on Hulu while you’re at it. You will want to know Wunderhorse not merely for their being four of the loveliest lads you could hope to meet, but also because they are dynamic distributors of a disintegrated kind of melodic rope of sand that, I believe, mixes Neil Young, Elliott Smith, and Pixies in equal parts for the first time in rock. “Teal”, especially, stands out for its understated wordplay and emotional glissando. That tune and all of the others I was privileged to early-hear off their just-released debut entitled Cub, were larksome, brave, chrono-maniacal, piercing, and wild as a buck.

Very much like when Inhaler visited for the first time last year, all of Irish Atlanta poured out to see five Irishmen this time paint a jagged Dublin grin across Little Five Points. There are more of us than anyone (including us) realizes until you put a bunch of us in one place. I saw people I knew from the extended network of my Irish book club, members of the Irish embassy in Atlanta, and several friends of the current Irish consul in attendance, to say nothing of every beloved fellow Irish-mutt-mongrel friend I have from every other paisley corner of life. When Fontaines burst completely without ceremony into “A Hero’s Death”, after walking out to Outkast’s “ATLiens”, life became instantly, decidedly less empty even for us annoying full-time full-cuppers. No one had to tell this crowd to “bring your own two cents” as they were instantly, vehemently in Chatten’s face with his lyrics, set to their own unique volumes.

It is in a song like “Sha Sha Sha”, which came second on this night’s Skinty Fia tour setlist, wherein the brogue-bearing bruise of Chatten’s own vox is at its most black-and-violet ecchymosis. Fieldstripped of all but feeling, his voice curls in on itself, like a metal thing engulfed in untended flame. It may ever be the choral contortionist but the listener gets the contusion every time, and learns to eagerly wait for it. It was the Variety Playhouse crowd that came close to ‘tearing down the plaster’ when “Hurricane Laughter” tore through the room. I looked on in genuine worry as some sweet, optimistic soul, moshing his heart out with his vinyl copy of Skinty Fia held triumphantly aloft, disappeared into the 100-bodied devil-dervish dead-center of the floor – whether he or the record survived intact seems unlikely but remains undetermined.

When they performed songs like “A Lucid Dream”, even a casual bystander could ascertain that the Fontaines D.C. boys intrinsically understand the septic nature of septs and scepters. This is because they are loudhailers from lough roads where even the peated whiskey can observe religio-political divides. As such, they can make iambic pentameter sound like softcore pornography–and very frequently do – but do so in a way that reclaims and rinses the word “culchie” to mean what it always only should have: close to the ground – which is forever the highest compliment. Galway County is known to many as “The City of Tribes.” How fitting then that few bands of today can lay a fitter claim to ending tribalism of all stripes than Fontaines D.C., some of Western Ireland’s most venerable young sons.

When Brendan Behan once famously and hilariously defined an Anglo-Irishman simply as “a Protestant on a horse,” did he imagine that Grian Chatten, a man people seemingly cannot name in any context without concomitantly saying how Irish he is, would be born in Barrow-In-Furness and have few to none beyond himself even daily realize it? What does it mean to be “assertively Irish,” as Fontaines have been repeatedly called, anyway? Would that not signify simply being fully Irish and showing up as your faithful self everywhere you went? Should that be considered revelatory in any way by the year 2022? These are the punitive, palmistry-and-kneecapping questions Fontaines D.C. is demanding answers for – first and foremost, from themselves. Like five breathing smoke signals from an Irish future in which the hexis chevaleresque does not depend on fever-pitch patriotism anymore, Fontaines D.C. are a musical monument to a myth unmade.

Jackie Down The Line” is among their most stunning, cryogenically mutated, and martial kinds of dégagé prose. Live, it was a blaring, Pyrrhic wish bedight with edible fleurs du mal, “I can’t buy a book worth buying/Does it come as a surprise?” being one. This inconceivably intelligent song, live and on the record, is an omnibus of incandescent imagery: forfeitures, plunders, parcels of priesthood, the oleaginous spirit of charisma. “I Don’t Belong”, with its video (directed by Conor Deegan III!), bore all the sense of lost place names and illegitimate states that one could imagine spawning such a Jackie, while synchronously suggesting that no measure of truth can ever be kompromat unless the mind receiving it already is.

The Irish consciousness has forever been a supraventricular one. The sea is icy and irascible in Ireland, and we do not serve our cold-water conversations warm either. There is no sell-by date on the covenants of blood we are prone to making with ourselves. There is a reason we are world-renowned for hunger strikes and graveside loyalty. No one can out inner-resolve us. Fontaines D.C. make tunes that are tumbrels spilling over with all of this, dumping images of brown suits, newsboy caps, and snuff yoked to those of black berets, arm bands, and coffins—all in katydid green. The characters in these songs live in a James Purdy kind of marginalia. What they have proven is that every act of physical, militant defiance (particularly those that go on inside oneself) is not an act of war, and nor should any be directed at only one angle of a person (including oneself).

Songs like “Chequeless Reckless” and “Too Real” are Irish in inflection more than they are in intention for being spasmodic like the Troubles, lyrically evocative of Ireland’s economic and philosophical lean stretches in ways every bit as painstaking as intaglio printmaking, and flammably dark as briquettes of turf all at once. These are not stalemate songs by any means. Dundalk used to be quite famous for being the “El Paso” of Ireland during the Troubles, the place where all the confirmed cowboys-for-hire so to speak hung out, then turning contemptuously IRA-opposed during the War of Independence. Fontaines songs are Janus-faced in the direct opposite way to this: their cyclopsian fidelity to finding and accepting the truth, anew each day if they must, has the same visage on either side of the argument. They are going to look both ways before they speak and their perfect contrition cannot be purchased.

Making a few friendly queries about the ductile appeal of Fontaines D.C. amongst non-Irish members of the Atlanta crowd as we waited for them to appear, I heard much praise for their epitomization of the exile who stayed back, the way they work the wounds worn by anyone of a flux population who has remained behind. Many devotees name-checked the universality of lines like, “A phoney is someone who demands respect for the principles they affect / A dilletante is someone who can’t tell the difference between fashion and style” or the implacable insurgency latent in their many Hugh Mulhern-produced videos, which have been justifiably decorated for being the miniature films they certainly qualify as. Quite a few avid attendees were from war-torn backgrounds where no sign of a cease-fire currently presents itself on any horizon and cognitive dissonance about what all this disarray means was the least of it. A band that can both man and expand the kinship configurations amidst and beyond its borders, and do so by thoroughly embodying its home yet never taking a side, is due every hardline sympathizer. Had I had no ancestral affiliation with or artistic understanding of Fontaines D.C. prior to the Atlanta stop of the Skinty Fia tour, their doctrinal reach far past Dublin and London would have been as readily conspicuous as jeans stiffened with day-old blood.

When the lovingly impetuous Hotlanta mob set up a vociferous ten-minute chant of “10 more songs!” post the performance of “Skinty Fia”, an animal-pelted song of caramel leather and mescal that served as the culmination to the official set for this show, Chatten deliberately let them lather before nonchalantly loping back out to the mic for the encore. He playfully told them to “Shut up,” and thereby effortlessly sent a small sea of smiling supporters into a cohesive, gravitational pull of a giggle. Part and sum, this is the unperishable pride of purpose that is categorically disinterested in tactical appeasement. This band exudes not one kernel of concern for what others say their level of success is or could be. They do not care a fig about personal gain. They worry about things like gentrification, transferring the right kind of discordant energy to their fans, and whether there will still be horses in the Liberties next year.

In conversation with Tom Coll, just a few days prior to the Fontaines arriving in Atlanta, and directly after they had performed “Roman Holiday” on The Late Late Show with James Corden, I got a much deeper sense of the way that keeping the right things alive in the face of imminent erosion is another Fontaines specialty. Now heading up his own Skinty Records, Coll has released the Goitse A Thaisce (translating to “Come Here My Darling”) compilation with people like Lisa O’Neill and The Bothy Band from the Irish traditional music scene. When asked about his outlook for what this label will become and do, he replies “I just really don’t want this music to go away. I hope I can keep doing these kinds of releases that preserve this part of Irish heritage and allow more people from everywhere to enjoy it.” This earnest urge is reflected down to the title of the band’s current album, its font even kicking up at the edges with a touch of the Kells. “Skinty fia” is a colloquial phrase used largely by older generations of Irish people. It translates directly as “the damnation of the deer,” but is used as a light curse for common, day-to-day human foibles, such as stubbing one’s toe or spilling one’s coffee.

Coll is also a committed proponent of film photography and this analog visual component comes through in the sound he is responsible for within Fontaines songs. Going from start to finish on any of their albums is like watching a photo flipbook of not just the physical scenarios they are describing, but the internal landscapes that colored them. When I relay this observation to Coll and ask if he has noticed the intersections between the way he loves the more slow-burn style of image-capture and the way he goes about harnessing quadrants of rhythm, he is pleasantly surprised and immediately contemplative: “That’s actually an amazing observation that I have never thought about before. I’m really grateful to you for saying that to me because I don’t know that I could have seen that on my own, but now that you say it, I absolutely do see it.” When I petition him to define success in music and the future dreams of the Fontaines for me, he takes no time at all to offer this most faultless answer, “Oh, you know we’re already living it! We don’t project too far into the future, but the fact we all get to make music together as friends, it’s not lost on any of us. If we can keep going and keep improving with each album, keep having fun, and stay truthful in what we are trying to say, that’s as happy as I could be and I think I can fairly say that’s all any of us want.”

There is so much in this and in every response you will ever get from any member of Fontaines D.C. about the quality of the candor that has created them, the truth that comes out when people are not posing, and how that truth molds itself differently when let to run in long-form fields of freedom. Interpol evaluates potential threats on capacity, timescale, and intent. By such measures, Ireland herself is becoming quite the long-range musical ‘menace’ on an international scale seldom as traditionally vulnerable to our less shamrock-selective sides. Alongside Fontaines D.C., you have  The Murder Capital, Sorcha Richardson, Inhaler, Dea Matrona, Imelda May (who happens to have an outstanding poetry book out at present!), Wallis Bird, Carrie Baxter, Just Mustard, and Touts. I have always argued that no politician in history ever had the people-moving power of one really good musician. That young Ireland has this many completely stellar ones cracking the lip of the contemporary sound scene can only bode exceptionally well for the Ireland most people who love her want, one that comfortably houses all models of her truest personalities, and one that fosters a relationship to England that does away once and for all with the bad-making brand of bellicosity we have all worn like prison tattoos in one form or another for far too long.

For those sweet-natured ostriches whose tepid Tuesdays rely on cozy convictions that Anglo-Irish tensions are already plums and cognac shot in the sepia tones of the seventies past, here is a horror story to last you all the rest of your Halloweens and hopefully simultaneously communicate the dire import of Fontaines D.C. better than any two-party fable ever could. As recently as last summer, I was deadpan-asked by the most hallux-headed northern Englishman imaginable whether I “had any context” on “what the IRA had done to England.” Those were his precise words and they were delivered to me with acid disapproval at my suggestion that Dolours Price and her outfit had not simply shown up on England’s doorstep because they had nothing better to do one black-domed day. The person in question felt more than free to sanctimoniously state, not even insinuate, that a sense of common decorum should prevent me from speaking openly about historical events pertaining to members of my own bloodline – a bloodline, it must be noted, that this same ideological bindipper had no genetic or philosophical connection of his own to except in respect of his belonging to the country and people who had colonized it for more than six centuries.

Rather than displaying any shade of what ought to be the requisite reverence for the fallout in this fact which had deeply impacted us both, he very demonstrably believed it granted him both unfettered social-superiority credentials that amounted to complete narrative license over both our stories. As per interminable history, the English man expected the Irish woman to acknowledge what his false sense of command thought best and, what’s more, to submit to it unquestioningly out of some bizarre sense of communal duty that served only his fragile tale of himself. Effectively, he wanted me to drape my words in his ‘butcher’s apron’ and be glad for the opportunity. Like most authors of tyrannical tirades (and like most unread misogynists), this one had no idea whatsoever how embarrassed of his own ignorant presumptions and prehistoric mentalities he should have been, and I received the opening salvo of this sadistically stupid outburst in blinkered, smizing silence, absolutely expecting him to burst out laughing any second, wholly unable to accept at the start that this was the opposite of a piss-taking parody.

In the next two ticks, I was to be forcefully instructed by this real-life Harry Enfield, even quietly verbally threatened, not to so much as jokingly mention my political leanings surrounding Irish Republican matters, “around any English person who was or had been in the military.” This misguided directive was then accompanied by the following disgusted/-ing, curled-lip scowl of an admonishment: “Doing so is insensitive, arrogant, and naive.” I now urgently needed to bile-laugh for a completely new set of reasons and fully understood in that moment why many highly educated, totally-not-street-gang-material people clamor to reinstate the Rabbits. It was Bernadette Devlin all over again, but I must admit: I was unexpectedly and insatiably proud to incite such a riot of ridiculousness, even if the venue for said splash was a constricted landscape of imagined limits beneath such a patronymic pate. For a split, smirking second I thought about trying for a more neutral ground by bringing up India, Kenya, or Cyprus but had real concern whether my (accidental?) autocrat would be able to locate those places on a map. I was also hearing a few Fontaines lyrics trip through my tangled mind at top amplification: “You shoulda heard him in the Bowery / Learning people with a tongue / Cut from second-hand cloth / Make the women feel young.”

Irish old-timers would likely have regarded this poor fellow as a “gentleman of four outs” (wit, money, credit, manners), and there can be no doubt he was that and a milksop of the first order too, representing less than nothing of what I would classify as the informed English populace, a constituency I have borne the greatest possible love for all of my life and always will. My personal and professional history is the verifiable antithesis to Anglophobia. Unfortunately, none of that diminishes the shock value of the reality that I was encouraged in 2021 (not 1971!) toward fear of violent reprisal from an English person if I spoke about Irish matters in a way he had deemed unbecoming to his slanted, colonialist narrative (read: in a manner too forthright about the real history of the violence). One should never feel the need to don a cuirass in order to safely enter a conversation about one’s own mother country – or any other subject for that matter.

This uncalled-for incident would have been a farce in 1972 or 2022 had the sadistic skinflint’s deadly seriousness not made it so unspeakably sad. If this parade of provincialism had been unwelcomely visited on me by a titled Tory of octogenarian years, we could perhaps be collectively persuaded to take less note of it, dismissing it under the comfortable blanket of pre-evolution nonsense. However, when you take into consideration the disheartening detail that it was not a baronial berk but a former professional musician, and one less than a scant decade older than the Fontaines boys themselves, that was blathering this backward bullshit at me like I was on trial for a hedgerow assassination at the Old Bailey, something so much more sinister about the stunted stereotypes that allow this kind of social suppression to continue surfaces its Slytherin-by-way-of-Henry II-head.

‘To Hell or to Connacht’ harries on, as any alert Irish person anywhere can tell you, only now it wears so-called ‘working class’ garb (though you’ll find little work of any ilk ever accompanies it) and has traded outward Cromwellian cruelties for all manner of concealed Little Englander liabilities – which are infinitely more dangerous for their common-man camouflage. It is because of this that the fanged famine you will hear beneath the delivery of any Fontaines D.C. song is every bit as hungry as our shared history with the Crown, and twice as necessary to square off with. The significance of a band like Fontaines D.C. is hugely heightened in the wake of Brexit because there is no getting around the pressing truth that people can only learn to know themselves as a group or as individuals when they are consistently confronted with their intrinsic difference, when they are neck-and-neck with nuance. Situations that discourage nuance serve no one, especially when they are political in nature.

Full-bodied recognition of the continuous lived experience of exile can feel a bit like a starfish suctioned to the face. It is beautiful in a frightening way, you certainly feel it (and might even be a little secretly glad it chose you), but it is inherently uncomfortable and very often simply hurts. You do not have to be a sectarian to see this and the sting is felt from the Linen to the Latin quarter. The aforementioned coercive exchange was troubling on a far deeper level than my abject distress at its occurrence. It was terrifying for what it indicates about where the discourse on Dublin versus Derry currently resides at the lowest level where the real reptiles whisper. Where hate has become an heirloom and retaliation the only regent, the compendium of malarial ideas about what céilí means and who can call it that is unlikely to be burned. If no honest, clement conversation can be had about what has happened, how can equitable solutions be sought for what should? It is here, right here, that Fontaines D.C. most stridently and most materially matter, for selflessly spilling barrels of electrum where others only greedily tried to separate gold from silver. Maybe this has been a parable of pints, poetry, and punk after all, but at least all the characters have the courage to use their real names.

With this in mind and by way of an overdue Irish exit, an open letter to the five-man flying column known as Fontaines D.C., from a little leannán sí across the sea: Thank you, Grian, Tom, both Conors, and Carlos. You are exactly the Dublin-dogrel this craicless conversation so desperately needs, now and always. We Irish diaspora use a somewhat paranormal form of echolocation to find you, our Fenian families, in all sorts of faraway latitudes as well as right here at home. Your songs are the rock-n-roll radar blip of the most respectable kind of rebellion there has ever been: the credible threat notion that open-mindedness is not a cultural condition but a personal choice having nothing at all to do with where anyone is from, only with what degree of charity he or she has decided. When you decide to think against all odds (and the status quo), that is when you unequivocally stride into the realm of the historically luminary, even when you are as righteously shy of mantles as you unpresuming lot. You have never asked anyone to parse their pieties or pledge anything; you just keep sending out the most necessary epistolary messages and serpentine epitaphs from the kind of masculine perspective every country could do with having a great deal more of. We adore you for this. No matter what comes next, you have already more than secured your own hero’s life by force of the sheer sincerity in your personal and professional efforts toward an accurate (and thereby implicitly poetic) expression of not just Irish identity but, much more importantly, real Irish ideology. In ár gcroíthe go deo. Hugs and Galway glitter, your Salthill-to-Star-Bar sister.


  1. A Hero’s Death
  2. Sha Sha Sha
  3. A Lucid Dream
  4. Hurricane Laughter
  5. A Roman Holiday
  6. I Don’t Belong
  7. Chequeless Reckless
  8. A Televised Mind
  9. Nabokov
  10. Too Real
  11. How Cold Love Is
  12. Jackie Down The Line
  13. Skinty Fia


  1. Boys In The Better Land
  2. I Love You
Fontaines D.C.

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