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Song You Need to Know: Fontaines D.C., ‘A Hero’s Death’

Affirming life lessons from a fine Irish punk band

Fontaines D.C. are a band of nice Irish lads with a knack for crisp, cutting guitars that bounce by like a fast-walking drunk guy knocking you off a sidewalk, and an endearingly affirmative view of life: “Dublin in the rain is mine/A pregnant city with a Catholic mind,” singer Grian Chatten offered at the opening of the band’s great 2019 debut LP, Dogrel, an album where dark, moody post-punk blight was buoyed by a distinctly Irish lyricism, working out their own uniquely Joycean take on Joy Division.

The band is getting ready to put out a new record, A Hero’s Death, which comes with cover art depicting the mythic Celtic hero Cúchulainn. They’ve just released the title track from the album, in which angsty guitars back the affirming refrain “life ain’t always empty” and Chatten dispenses advice like “Tell your mother that you love her/Go out of your way for others” and “If you find yourself in a family way/Give the kid more than what you had in your day,” like he’s a philosophical parish priest who’s set up his confession booth at the back of a basement hardcore show. And if shit wasn’t Irish enough, the song’s hilarious video stars actor Aiden Gillen, a beloved son of Erin famous for his roles in The Wire and Game of Thrones. Can a concept album based on Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds be far behind?

In any case, great band, great song, great message. And great spiritual lineage: the combination of punishing music and pick-you-up lyrics in “A Hero’s Death” recalls Flipper’s existentialist punk classic “Life.” These guys are working in too many good traditions to count.

Find a playlist of all of our recent Songs You Need to Know selections on Spotify.