“Dublin in the rain is mine/A pregnant city with a Catholic mind.” That’s a good couplet for Holy Week, if you ask me. That’s also the first line of the new album Dogrel by the Irish post-punk band FONTAINES D.C. It’s a great line, even taken out of context, but when you hear it on the record, it takes on an entirely different gradation of meaning, mainly because of singer Grian Chatten’s voice. He doesn’t so much sing as declaim melodically. He doesn’t have a good voice, like, what I mean is, he won’t be winning on The Voice anytime soon, but it is a great voice. It fits the music perfectly, and even when he’s a bit off key, that just adds a kind of bittersweet melancholy to the music. Chatten sings like I sing when I’m alone and drunk, by which I mean he sounds like he doesn’t give a shit. I know that it seems counterintuitive, but that’s a pretty strong recommendation.
The rest of the band rises to the challenge set by Chatten’s blunt instrument of a voice. One would think that with a frontman like him, they’d be flailing away at their guitars and drums and doing their best to conjure some kind of frenetic clamor. One would be wrong, the band is in control for the entire record. Most of the record is very sparing with distortion. The guitar lines are more sinuous than muscular, and the bass carries most of the melody. When they do cut loose, it makes it all the more worth it. My favorite song is “Liberty Belle.” I don’t even know what it’s about? It’s poetic and abstract lyrically, but the song is meant to be danced to and shouted along with. The music is immediate, and even if I can’t parse the words, I can feel the sentiment.
The title is a corruption of the word “doggerel,” which has come to mean a certain type of poorly executed poetry. FONTAINES strive for poetry, so I almost think that the title is a preemptive strike against any critics. The lyrics are poetry, not high art by any means, but that’s not what they’re going for. This isn’t art rock, even though it’s artfully done. There’s a physical poetry in the interplay of the band as well, and poetry in the way Chatten’s voice is right there in your face, unadorned and unashamed. It’s an impressive debut.