Fontaines D.C.’s awaited debut album Dogrel starts off with an raw, aggressive sound that sets the tone for the rest of the album. Though slow at times, it never loses its energy or realness. The changes in the style and themes of each song feel genuine. The quick start of “Big” with its quick, coarse punk tone and 1:45 runtime proclaims the ambition of the album as the lyrics repeat, “I’m gonna be big.” It then develops organically as it takes the listener on a journey that reflects the feeling of life. The songs range from abrupt and to the point with driving bass lines and quick drums to being more thoughtful and melancholic as they explore a wide array of themes.
Many of the songs are sung in a half sung half spoken manner. In a style reminiscent of Joy Division or The Clash, the vocals fit well with the energy of the music. Through the changes of the battering punk sound of “Big” and “Too Real,” the melancholy of “Television Screen” and “The Lotts,” or the surfy groove found on tracks like “Hurricane Laughter” or “Liberty Belle,” the monotony of the vocals tie the varying styles in different sounding tracks together. Though monotone at times, the singing is far from boring. There is enough variety in the delivery like the playful rhyming of “Boys in the Better Land” or the angry shouting of “Too Real” to help keep a listener interested.
The album’s recording is almost lo-fi, not to say that it is a difficult listen though. The music is in-your-face and conveys the raw emotion of each song’s themes. As the album develops, the songs seem to receive more production and sounds cleaner with tighter instrumentation and less noise. The higher production level of the later songs is not always a good thing. Compared to the earlier released versions of some songs, the finish of several of the tracks gives a more sterilized sensation that lacks the same kind of emotion found in the beginning of the album.
In Dogrel, the band manages to find an elegance in simplicity. Neither the drumbeats nor the bass lines are overly complex, yet each excel at driving the songs forward. The simple nature of the vocals gives the album a trademark sound that is unmistakably Fontaines D.C. and unmistakably Fontaines D.C. is very good.