The explosion of Fontaines D.C. and why not every backlash is Irish begrudgery
Damn, I'm bored.
I'm really bored. It has become so very dull.
Some necessary background:
Fontaines D.C. are an independent punk/rock/whatever band that hail from Dublin.
On Friday 12 April, the five-piece released their debut album Dogrel; part bedraggled ode to the capital, part snarling societal invective, part full-throttle guitar assault.
Guitar music never died, despite what your uncle with the yellowed Oasis poster in his attic tells you. It is, frankly, insulting to legions of acts that use a six-string to create something other than a terrace anthem to suggest as much.
Nevertheless, the argument can be made that Ireland has been lacking in the classic 'lads with guitars and attitude and also decent, crowd-capturing music' front on a significant level for quite some time.
Step forward Fontaines D.C., presently riding a wave of hype so ferocious that you wonder if they can possibly survive it.
A cluster of UK and US articles - Noisey, Stereogum, NME, others - all saying roughly the same thing, selling the exciting new wave of Irish guitar music by profiling the same four or five bands with Fontaines at the very top, set the tone over the past six months.
At home, they have been duly championed via The Irish Times, Hot Press, et al.
This week, BBC Radio 6 Music asked if Fontaines are the best new band right now.
Best new band of 2019?@steve_lamacq was thrilled to have Fontaines DC (@fontainesdublin) in the live room to discuss their @officialcharts-bothering debut LP.
📲 Hear the session and more of this interview on @BBCSounds
📺 Watch their 6 Music Festival set @BBCiPlayer pic.twitter.com/oZhmAUnTvO
— BBC Radio 6 Music (@BBC6Music) April 16, 2019
Also this week - notoriously hard to impress hipster bible Pitchfork bent the knee, noting that the boys are "eager ambassadors for Dublin’s past" while being less enamoured with today's economic and social disparities.
Revolutionary stuff, only that very write-up has yielded some degree of controversy.
The offending article - a truncated lift of the band's Noisey chinwag in which frontman Grian Chatten paid tribute to Girl Band, a daring, quite mesmerising group that has managed to achieve near-mythical status in certain circles despite thus far living a short and agitated life.
As the Pitchfork section goes:
"Fontaines D.C. have cited fellow Dublin noisemakers Girl Band as a crucial influence, as much for their eccentric spirit as their abrasive sound. 'Before that, the only way to sound Irish was to be fuckin’ ‘diddly-diddly-aye,'' Chatten recently told Noisey. 'They modernised Irish music massively.'
"To wit, the band’s most heroic anthem, 'Boys in the Better Land' may have been inspired by Chatten’s encounter with an Anglophobic Dublin cabbie, but it takes the form of a riotous, British Invasion-styled rave-up that frames distinctly local issues as universal truths."
And there is truth in the above, from Chatten's eye for a provocative character sketch to the genuine influence of Girl Band.
The rest is eye-rolling nonsense, though it should be noted that the "fuckin' 'diddly-diddly-aye'" musing ran on from praise for Girl Band's skill with Irish colloquialisms and the potentially lucrative currency thereof.
But that's how it is now. We take select bite-size sections of things, divorce them from context and share away. Modern discourse is problematic.
Chatten's hand-waving of years of Irish musical history is problematic, too, of course, even if we shouldn't balk too hard in the direction of a rock and roll frontman being a bit rock and roll in an interview setting.
Still, dumb thing to say. There shouldn't be a need to list a lengthy myriad of Irish artists who have somehow magically avoided sounding like the aural equivalent of Darby O'Gill and the Little People, so let's not do that.
If you still haven't listened to Fontaines D.C. by now, however, here's a sample:
Clip via Fontaines D.C.
Chatten is likely right; they are indeed going to be big.
His voice, drenched in working class Dublin spirit and tone, is certainly a far cry from previous stabs at aping American pop-punk and Two Door Cinema Club-esque shimmering indie. You can find those online, should you know where to look.
His current iteration is too real for some, and yet nowhere near authentic enough for others.
Point this out, or suggest that Dogrel is a five-out-of-ten album, and you may be met with the hackiest of hack arguments, that most lifeless of straw men; the dreaded "begrudgery" invocation.
Yep, we're just a nation of begrudgers. We build up our own only to knock 'em down when they achieve success. We're never happy.
That's definitely it. It isn't that a band made an average-to-decent debut album that has some clangers on it and is less enjoyable the more you listen to it.
It isn't that the avalanche of hype - not necessarily the band's fault, though they were probably aware of a very deliberate PR campaign - is off-putting. It's good old-fashioned begrudgery, mate.
Think Hozier's most recent record is about as fun as a trip to the dentist? You're a begrudger. It's a backlash. They were going to come for lovely Andrew eventually. You're just a hater.
Not mad on Derry Girls? Clearly you're just wrong! You don't like popular things. You're so edgy.
Not everything is a backlash. Not everything adjudged to be one warrants a backlash of its own. Some things just lie between two extremes. Not everything needs the fight.
By all accounts, the Fontaines lads are friendly and hard-working young men. They have grafted for their accolades and will continue to.
You're allowed not like their work. You're entitled to regard a grotty student apartment view of Ireland and Chatten's drawled vocals, affectation or otherwise, as laughably irritating.
You can also believe it to be the gutsy shot in the arm that the world needs right now.
All are valid. There'll be another hype band next month, anyway.
We have four or five of them now, I'm told.