Arguably, the biggest Irish band in recent years, Fontaines D.C. return with their ‘difficult’ third album, or so the cliché goes anyway. In Ár gCroíthe is a moody opener, an eerie drone with the band chanting the song title repeatedly as Grian Chatten sings lyrics over it. The next two tracks are a bit more like you’d expect from these guys, solid mid-paced tracks. On How Cold Love Is in particular, Grian Chatten’s flat enunciations can grate (“soowww cooowwwld, soowww cooowwwld, soowww cooowwwld”). At the same time, you notice how economic and well-recorded the guitar playing is. Here and across the album, Carlos O’Connell and Conor Curley really excel themselves with their guitar playing. Recent single Jackie Down The Line is in a similar vein, if a little downcast.
It’s when we reach track five, Bloomsday that the album kicks up a notch, this one has a lovely slow grind with added swagger. The guitar work on Roman Holiday is even better than what went before, with gorgeous, Cure-like guitars here and also on I Love You. The latter is the kind of moody-as-fuck track that will please anyone who dismissed this band as over-hyped, though to be honest Chatten’s roared lyrics referencing Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are questionable, to say the least. It’s not all good, the accordion on the overlong The Couple Across The Way is way too much, and doesn’t really work. However, the really dark title track which follows is excellent, driven by a menacing bassline. It’s different from anything else the band has done previously and could prove a worthwhile new direction for them. Nabokov, the last song hits harder than anything else on the album but it’s another one that’s a bit too long and drawn out.
The album is a little uneven, if their first two albums were the sound of the big night out, this one feels more like a hangover, post-party album. It’s not celebratory and there are no big rabble rousers, but it’s good to see them avoid the obvious and tread their own path. If you’re looking for the Fontaines D.C. backlash you won’t find it here, this album is damn good.