Fontaines D.C., 2024. Credit: Theo Cottle

Take a deep breath. The shock of the new, the anxiety of the everyday, increasing screams in a shrinking universe – the world can be a lot sometimes. You hear that on ‘Starburster’ with Fontaines D.C. frontman Grian Chatten’s every sharp inhale, every piercing drum beat over a noxious soundscape.

Inspired by a panic attack suffered by Chatten in London’s St Pancras station, ‘Starburster’ captures that shock of trying to grasp reality amidst all the chaos. The fuckery of what it is to human in these bin fire times has always been central to the music of Fontaines, but they always seem to find the light. As bassist Conor Deegan says of James Ford-produced fourth album ‘Romance’, released August 23: “We’ve always had this sense of idealism and romance. Each album gets further away from observing that through the lens of Ireland”. Now settled in London, the boys are searching for “where and what else there is to be romantic about.”

Chatten says it’s a record driven by the idea of “falling in love at the end of the world” and “protecting that tiny flame”. “The bigger armageddon looms,” he adds in a statement, “the more precious it becomes”. That sense of wonder and dread can only come from pushing the extremities of their sound to the Nth degree. It’s been a long time coming. From a group of scrappy upstarts aping The Strokes and The Ramones before they were signed, to the assured rush of debut ‘Dogrel’ and the punchy grace of ‘A Hero’s Death’ (which paved the way for them being named Best Band In The World at the 2022 NME Awards), evolution is an inevitable, crucial part of their story.

The seeds were planted a while back. At the band’s 2021 show at London’s Alexandra Palace NME marked it a moment that saw Fontaines “transcend their punk roots to become true rockstars”. That became further manifest on their immaculate third album ‘Skinty Fia’ – an experimental and assured landmark record from a band with crosshairs dead between the eyes of the future.

Freshly signed to XL, a breeding ground for artful weirdness and home to the likes of Radiohead, King Krule, The xx and Burial, it seems that instead of jumping on a major label bandwagon, they’ve taken a perfect left turn. Leaning on the Massive Attack trip-hop noir vibes first hinted at on ‘Skinty Fia’’s title track, ‘Starburster’ is a pensive art-rock beast that fuses elements of electronica and hip-hop more akin to their fellow striking countrymen (and recent collaborators) KNEECAP as Chatten spits: “I’m gon hit your business if it’s momentary blissness *BREEEAAAATHE*”.

Bravado meets psychedelia as the frontman says he’s “over harder than a turned up challenger” and “the pig on the Chinese calendar”. The video, too – a fever dream of blood, animals and a cast of misfits trying to find their way – further supports their referencing of Shygirl and Sega Bodega as key inspirations.

This could be a very bloody special time for Fontaines D.C. In the coming months, there’s potential for a ‘I was there moment’ when they headline Friday’s Park Stage at Glastonbury, and a joyous collection of their flowers when they return to Reading & Leeds’ main stage on the week of album release in August, celebrating would could be yet another definitive record from the band of their generation. It’s shit out there, but here’s some music to make sense of it; music that matters. Take a deep breath.

The post Fontaines D.C.’s daring comeback single ‘Starburster’ is their most experimental work yet appeared first on NME.


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