Some records are grounded so firmly in the location where they were written and recorded that they become portals to their surroundings. As is the case with Fontaines D.C.'s debut album, Dogrel sucks you into the backroom of a pub somewhere in Dublin. It's a rough-and-ready record, soaked in booze and obscured by a cloud of cigarette smoke, but through the haze lies a love letter to working-class life in the city. Its strength comes from romanticized lyrics and driving instrumentation, although Dogrel isn't afraid to step back on occasion to provide quieter moments of contemplation; staying true to the form of Irish poetry that it's named after.
The opening track contains everything you need to know about Fontaines D.C.: "Big" packs in poetic verses, a declaration to Dublin, a sense of immediacy, and a personal mantra -- all in under two minutes it condenses the entire album. By the time lead single "Too Real" rolls around, the band have fully stretched their legs, going so far as to include elements of noise rock to complement the sneering choruses. Vocalist Grain Chatten only really flits between two modes, a shouting/singing hybrid and a slightly softer variation of that, but he does both with a sense of conviction. Tracks such as "Television Screens" or "Roy's Tune" have somber undertones, but don't reach deep levels of despair; they lament the struggles which they draw from. For the upbeat numbers, such as standout track "Boys in the Better Land," Chatten channels effortless swagger, the kind of energy that oozes charisma and encourages singalongs. His deadpan passion combined with sweaty riffs and tumultuous percussion makes Dogrel a compelling listen, acting as a snapshot of Dublin in 2019. Although it paints a picture that best fits a degraded postcard, it's relatable in its own earnest way with a poetic air and a sense of urgency.