The hype is real, folks. For every group that gets prepped to conquer these shores only to fail, it looks like Dublin's Fontaines D.C. will succeed. With shows already sold out, and the debut album not even released yet (it drops tomorrow via Partisan Records), the band are racking up the sort of advance praise that reminds this fan of the run-up to the arrival of The Libertines, or the kind of good word-of-mouth from people with good taste that greeted the first EP from Australia's Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever. And, like those bands, Fontaines D.C. take things back to a sound that owes as much to mid-career Clash as it does to, say, The Modern Lovers.
The Dublin outfit's debut album, Dogrel, is the sort of record that offers up what sounds like a singles compilation. Yes, nearly every cut is that good. If "Big" and "Sha Sha Sha" are pleasant reminders of the sort of thing that once issued forth from numerous bands from across the ocean in that window between punk and New Wave, the rougher "Too Real" is all fire, blasts of Richard Hell-style vocals carried aloft by churning guitars and primitive drumming. It's brilliant, really. Elsewhere, "Hurricane Laughter" brings the first half of Dogrel to a roaring close, even as "Roy's Tune" suggests the sort of smartly unstudied lyricism that Pete Doherty once offered up in those early Libs sides. The lovely tune feels almost too smooth, even as the second half of this album suggests that Fontaines D.C. are as adept at winning hearts as they might be at inciting riots.
Still, while I can acknowledge the pieces here that seem winsome, the raw elements on Dogrel are the ones that really warm the heart, with early track "Liberty Belle" working up a fine racket, even as "Boys in the The Better Land" takes the wheel and drives the car into the ocean. If it's not "London Calling", it's at least "Jail Guitar Doors", and there ain't no shame in that. What one thinks when listening to nearly anything here is, "Where the hell have this band been all along!?!" I mean, for those of us who remember the hype that surrounded Shame not too very long ago, it seems misplaced when you hear Dogrel. Not since the days of "Time For Heroes" have I really felt something in my bones like what I feel when I play lots of this record.
Dogrel is out on Partisan Records tomorrow.
[Photo: Uncredited promotional pic]