In Review: Fontaines D.C. - 'A Hero's Death'

A dreary manifesto against the monotony of daily life, ‘A Hero’s Death’ continues the post-punk tradition as the delirious Thanatos to punk-rock’s Eros – Fontaines D.C. are back with a hit.
Posted: 18 May 2020 Words: Miles Ellingham

Though Fontaines D.C. (the ‘D.C.’ standing in for Dublin City) have benefited from the punk swell of todays’ austerity generation, there’s a poetic introspection that permeates frontman Grian Chatten’s lyrics and the musicality as a whole – not an aimless anger, but a pointed disillusionment, making many of the group’s punk predecessors seem naïve by comparison.  The band’s new single ‘A Hero’s Death’ is no exception to this. 

‘A Hero’s Death’ starts off jarringly reminiscent of Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust for Life’, but, where ‘Lust for Life’ flaunted an upstart euphoria, ‘A Hero’s Death’ takes on the role of its perverse double, filled with disenchantment – an anaesthetic to Iggy’s amphetamine.  The backing vocals form a ghostly repetitious chorus around the central line and premise of track “Life ain’t always empty…” repeated over and again, as if the singer has been caught in the act of convincing himself against his better instincts.

The track goes on to suggest small victories with which the listener could arm himself when confronted with the emptiness of a modern life: dull things, little things, things that countermand the punk sacrament, delivered in Chatten’s detached bark, like some psychotic guidance councillor, “Don’t get stuck in the past/ Say your favourite things at mass/ Tell your mother that you love her/ And go out of your way for others... Life ain’t always empty…” As the mantra drags on, the distorted guitars gently crescendo and the lyrics grow more frantic, “Never let a clock tell you what you got time for/ It only goes around, goes around, goes around… Life ain’t always empty…” Eventually we come to the titular thesis of the song “If we give ourselves to every breath/ Then we're all in the running for a hero's death.”

Like much of their material, ‘A Hero’s Death’ works on the level of poetry, and it should be treated as such; the groups interest in Irish poets, from Yates to Kavanagh, being well publicised, with many Fontaines D.C. tracks (such as Dogrel’s ‘Television Screens’) even starting off as poems before metamorphosing into songs. In their latest single, Fontaines D.C. have delivered a hymn to the grind, in opposition to the inherent monotony of today’s working life, expressed through little victories, all contributing to an act of letting go – a hero’s death.

To hear more from Fontaines D.C., click here

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