Irish post-punk band Fontaines D.C. (the suffix D.C. in their name stands for Dublin City, to distinguish them from L.A.-based alt pop-rock band The Fontaines) formed in 2017, but it wasn’t until summer of 2020 that I learned about them, when I heard their mesmerizing single “A Hero’s Death”, from their brilliant second album of the same name. I loved it at once, and after listening to the entire album, I became a fan of this exceptional band. Comprised of Grian Chatten (vocals), Carlos O’Connell (guitar), Conor Curley (guitar), Conor Deegan III (bass), and Tom Coll (drums), Fontaines D.C. met while students at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute in Dublin, and bonded over their common love of poetry. They began recording and self-releasing singles, as well as performing locally, and were ultimately signed to Partisan Records in 2018.
Since the release of their debut album Dogrel in 2019, Fontaines D.C. have garnered widespread critical acclaim as one of the best bands making music today. The album was named Album of the Year on the record store Rough Trade’s website, voted Album of the Year by presenters on BBC Radio 6 Music, and nominated for both the Mercury Prize and the Choice Music Prize. Their second album A Hero’s Death, which was written and recorded in the midst of extensive touring for Dogrel, was nominated for Best Rock Album at the 2021 Grammy Awards, losing to The Strokes’ The New Abnormal. They just released their darkly beautiful single “I Love You“, which I love so much, I’ve chosen it as my New Song of the Week.
The song is the second single from the band’s forthcoming third album Skinty Fia, due for release April 22. The album’s interesting title translates to “the damnation of the deer” in English. Fontaines D.C. bassist Conor Deegan III further elaborates about the band’s intent: “The Irish giant deer is an extinct species, but ‘skinty fia’ is also used as an expletive, in the way you’d say ‘For fuck’s sake’ if you bang your arm on a table or whatever. We just thought there was something really beautiful about that, because it’s representative of Irish culture in some sense. We were interested in the idea of something really precious or sentimental and attached to family, but also something that’s been taken away from us. Which doesn’t mean we can’t cherish it.”
“I Love You” follows lead single “Jackie Down The Line” which was released a month ago, and is described by band frontman Grian Chatten as “the first overtly political song we’ve written”. In one sense, it’s a love song to their home of Ireland. Chatten, along with the rest of the band, relocated from Ireland to London to further their music careers, and the first two verses of the song address his guilt at becoming successful and leaving his beloved homeland. He explained to Rolling Stone: “I’m in a position there where I’ve made something of a career from trying to connect with and render the culture and country that I come from and try and express it, [and] in doing so, understand it myself and help other people understand it. [But] I’ve moved from that country, and I’m now living in a country that is responsible for a lot of the chaos in the country that I’m from, that still kind of looks down on that country. I feel guilty for having left. I feel like I’ve abandoned Ireland to some extent. Not that it can’t survive fine without me, but I feel like I’ve taken all this crap from it creatively, and then I’ve just left. I have this kind of strange feeling of guilt toward my leaving of Ireland.”
But the song also speaks to Chatten’s seething anger and disappointment over the current political climate in Ireland – expressed in the lyrics condemning two of its major political parties: “I will tell them ’bout it all / About the gall of Fine Gael and the fail of Fianna Fáil“- as well as one of Ireland’s grimmest historical atrocities, namely the decades of tragic brutality at the Tuam Mother and Baby Home in Galway, where a mass grave containing the remains of 800 babies was later discovered decades after the home’s closure. He rebukes both those responsible for the atrocity, as well as those who turned a blind eye, which he references in the scathing words “This island’s run by sharks with children’s bones stuck in their jaws.”
Musically, the song is gorgeous and brooding, opening with Conor Deegan III’s somber bass riff, which is soon joined by a glorious mix of O’Connell and Curley’s shimmery and jangly guitar notes reminiscent of The Cure. As Chatten begins to sing “I love you, I love you, I told you I do” in his signature captivating drone, the music expands with Tom Cull’s assertive thumping drums, keeping perfect rhythm with Deegan’s immaculate bassline. A little past the two-minute mark, the song turns darker, with heavier instrumentals and an intense repetitive drumbeat to match the rising anger in Chatten’s vocals, in which he practically spits the bitter lyrics, eliciting chills in the process.
I love you, I love you, I told you I do It's all I've ever felt, I've never felt so well And if you don't know it, I wrote you this tune To be here loving you when I'm in the tomb I've eddied the heart now, from Dublin to Paris And if there was sunshine, it was never on me So close, the rain, so pronounced is the pain Yeah Well, I love you, imagine a world without you It's only ever you, I only think of you And if it's a blessing, I want it for you If I must have a future, I want to with you Systеm in our hearts, you only had it before You only opеn the window, never open up the door And I love you, I love you, told you I do Selling genocide and half-cut pride, I understand I had to be there from the start, I had to be the fucking man It was a clamber of the life, I sucked the ring off every hand Had 'em plying me with drink, even met with their demands When the cherries lined up, I kept the spoilings for myself 'Til I had thirty ways of dying looking at me from the shelf Cloud-parting smile I had, a real good child I was But this island's run by sharks with children's bones stuck in their jaws Now the morning's filled with cokeys tryna talk you through it all Is their mammy Fine Gael and is their daddy Fianna Fáil? And they say they love the land, but they don't feel it go to waste Hold a mirror to the youth and they will only see their face Makes flowers read like broadsheets, every young man wants to die Say it to the man who profits, and the bastard walks by And the bastard walks by, and the bastard walks by Say it to him fifty times and still the bastard won't cry Would I lie? I love you, I love you, I told you I do It's all I've ever felt, I've never felt so well And if you don't know it, I wrote you this tune To be here loving you when I'm in the tomb System in our hearts, you only had it before Echo, echo, echo, the lights, they go The lights, they go, the lights, they go Echo, echo Selling genocide and half-cut pride, I understand I had to be there from the start, I had to be the fucking man It was a clamber of the life, I sucked the ring off every hand Had 'em plying me with drink, even met with their demands And I loved you like a penny loves the pocket of a priest And I'll love you 'til the grass around my gravestone is deceased And I'm heading for the cokeys, I will tell them 'bout it all About the gall of Fine Gael and the fail of Fianna Fáil And now the flowers read like broadsheets, every young man wants to die Say it to the man who profits, and the bastard walks by And the bastard walks by, and the bastard walks by Say it to him fifty times and still the bastard won't cry Would I lie?
The dramatic, beautifully-filmed video was directed by Sam Taylor, and shows Chatten strolling through a dark, candle-lit church as he sings the first few verses. Two minutes in, he abruptly turns to face the camera, whereupon he launches into his scathing attack on the things that infuriate him about the country of his birth. By the video’s end, blood can be seen issuing from his chest.