Making sense of newfound fame and infinite tour schedules, it’s no surprise Dublin post-punks Fontaines D.C. are feeling a little burnt out. Swept up by the whirlwind of success generated by 2019’s Dogrel, frontman Grian Chatten’s once-ambitious declaration of intent, “My childhood was small / But I’m gonna be big!” prophesised a blink-of-an-eye rise to prominence; an uncompromising mission statement that would go on to characterise an almost immediate transition from ‘hype band’ in limbo to untouchable magazine cover star status.
Drained from appeasing his new glossy lifestyle and eager to address the ‘difficult’ second album, the anthemic Joycean balladry that once condemned capitalist greed and steamroller gentrification threatening to purge Dublin’s age-old communities and culture has inverted inwards, to a band in crisis and the unravelling of the world they’d worked so tirelessly to create. Forget the post-punk bangers, A Hero’s Death exists to be broken down and built back up as it reassembles the fragments of Fontaines’ new foreign reality.
An antithetical echo of last year’s fan favourite ‘Big’, the rebuke of opening track ‘I Don’t Belong’ indicates an unmistakable gear change backtracking from Chatten’s prior proclamation of impending fame. Replacing literary references for more personal offerings, his vulnerable narration wishes away the spotlight to regain command his own artistic integrity. ‘Living In America’ accelerates down interstate highways of perpetual partying with socialite fans and being unwillingly inducted to the spray tan existence. Citing The Beach Boys as a major influence, Chatten channels early Brian Wilson on ‘Oh Such A Spring’ and ‘Sunny’. Both tracks are ablaze with dreamlike escapism, harking back to times dissociative of the impending present.
Ultimately, A Hero’s Death can be defined by the title track and its definite list of rules for self-prescribed happiness. Though faced by much bloated expectation, its surreal mantra for success is a convincing argument that this is a band hellbent on delivering on the hype, rather than succumbing to it.
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