Following their hugely successful debut album, Fontaines D.C. are back with A Hero’s Death. Building on the momentum and forward motion of their early success, the band divert this energy inwardly, creating a much moodier and more reflective record.
The title encapsulates the main theme of the album. This new direction will result in some fan’s seeing the death of the band they had built up as heroes after Dogrel, but this doesn’t phase the band. They are creating the music they want to, and are refusing to be shackled by people’s opinions. Their attitudes are in tandem with the themes presented throughout the album.
The album opens with I Don’t Belong, the repetition of ‘I don’t belong to anyone‘ quickly implementing the moodier and introverted nature of this album compared to Dogrel‘s opening ‘Dublin in the rain is mine‘.
The drum-led, bass-heavy Love is the Main Thing centres around the exploration of struggling to accept love. The repetition and droning vocals could suggest the protagonist is trying to reassure themselves of their love, that it’s worth pursuing as something positive, rather than something controlling and scary.
Televised Mind blasts the album back into life, with Chatten taking a more energetic and forceful tone, again making use of repetition ‘that’s a televised mind‘, possibly suggesting the brainwashed nature of people nowadays. One of the main themes of the album is to be true to yourself and don’t let others opinions stop you from being yourself, and this track acts as Grian’s message to those afraid to be themselves, – they are ‘all in line for the televised mind‘.
The repetition of ‘whatcha call it?‘ encapsulates this point perfectly – a colloquial phrase of Chatten’s native Dublin, it not only represents Grian being himself, but is also a phrase used as a buffer in the mind, reflecting the nature of a televised mind.
A Lucid Dream continues the energetic atmosphere, with Chatten declaring, ‘I was there when the rain changed direction‘, possibly reinforcing the theme of staying true to your character – as the rain changed direction, the protagonist remained the same, maintaining their integrity.
The almost hypnotic rhythm of You Said, reflects Chatten and the band’s experiences of non-stop touring, often having only an hour scheduled for sleep. The ironic repetition of ‘operating faster‘, which couldn’t be dictated any more slowly or clearly, represents the zombie-like state Chatten felt at times during their relentless tour schedule.
Oh Such a Spring shows a different side to the band, with Chatten toning down his energetic vocals for the most heartfelt vocals on the album. The song centres around people in life who never had a chance to explore their creative gift, ‘I wished I could go back to spring again‘. These people, in Grian’s words, have “wasted their lives away fucking giving their time to something that puts bread on the table”. The song showcases the frustration Chatten has for these people who can’t chase their dreams and pursue their passions.
The title track, A Hero’s Death, offers advice on living a happier life ‘don’t get stuck in the past, say your favourite things at mass‘, but also creates uncertainty through its repetition. ‘Life ain’t always empty‘ seems a sincere offering of advice, but as it’s proclaimed over and over, the meaning becomes twisted. Is it sincerely a piece of advice, or just the protagonist mindlessly saying it in an attempt to convince themselves it’s the truth?
Living in America reinstates the darker tones of the album. Phrases such as ‘if you don’t know, we will not go‘, ‘newborn gangster‘, and the repetition of ‘Living in America‘ could be reflecting how people can change when they move away from home, forgetting who they are and not engaging with their true self, a major theme pondered throughout the album.
I Was Not Born takes a lighter atmosphere. The song acts as a message to ‘all you antiquated strangers, all throwing in the towel, to do another man’s bidding‘. Chatten rebukes those who gave up on their dreams without exploring their passions and exploring their creativity. This theme of wasted potential reflects the ideas introduced in Oh Such a Spring.
One of my favourite tracks on the album, Sunny, takes the form of a letter sent from a father to a son, explaining why he made certain decisions, and how his life has been affected by them. ‘You’d sooner draft me as a soldier, than you’d have me for a dad‘, an incredibly sad lyric depicting a father who has been rejected by his son – he’d rather send him to his death than accept him as a father. ‘Happy’s living in a closed eye, that’s where I like to be‘ – the protagonist only finds happiness while living in blissful ignorance, escaping from the situation. The repeated ‘where I was I can’t tell‘ could be the father explaining to his son why he was absent from his life, or reinforcing the idea that the father is only happy ‘living in a closed eye‘, constantly living in ignorance.
A strong closing track is very important to an album, and No doesn’t disappoint with it’s slower pace and reflective tone. In Chatten’s words, through this track he is “saying no to giving into depression” and “running away from responsibility and who you are”. The song explores engaging with yourself and accepting who you are, even if that can elicit deep emotions ‘don’t you play around the blame, it does nothing for the pain‘. A fitting end to a fantastic album.
A Hero’s Death is a remarkable album, with the standout track’s being the hugely energetic Televised Mind, A Lucid Dream, A Hero’s Death, along with the moodier Oh Such a Spring and Sunny. A much different sound to their debut album, but the sound of a band who are more confident in themselves. Fontaines D.C. have established themselves as one of the most exciting bands in the world right now.
A blend of absolute bangers and slower reflective tracks make’s A Hero’s Death an instant classic.
Pre-order A Hero’s Death here.