Fontaines DC

We had checked the appointment several months ago, in the chronicle that Marianne devoted to the latest album by Fontaines DC: this Thursday, August 25, for the first day of the Rock en Seine festival in Saint-Cloud, a remote match was played between the Dubliners and their artistic “rivals” from Bristol, Idles. The challenge ? The crown, so coveted at a time when rock survives mainly thanks to the vitality of its niches and chapels – the two groups share the same label, Partisan –, of king of post-punk.

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It’s up to Idles, author of a fourth album, Crawler, released last December, which had the honors of the main stage of the festival, while Fontaines DC had to be content with a smaller stand, the waterfall stage. The Irish had to perform a rather perilous stunt, and without rigging: finish their set at the precise time when the Arctic Monkeys, undisputed sovereigns of the evening, started theirs. It’s hard not to detect a touch of irony in the dedication addressed by the singer of Idles, Joe Talbot, to his friends at Fontaines DC. Despite everything, it is the quintet of Irish Boys who won the title.

On a Big Stage that was precisely too big for them, Idles quickly showed its limits: not helped by a screaming sound in the treble and frankly unbalanced (ah, the fashion for the “boomy” bass drum that covers half of the mix…), the band of Joe Talbot pedals in the void. The discharges of energy, which the enchantments of the studio enriched with subtle details, dissipate in space before reaching the spectator, subjected to a sonic jumble all of a block singularly lacking in nuances.


Too bad: a piece like The Beachland Ballroom, a crazy parody of a waltz for crooners, works on disc only through contrast effects. Once these are erased by the brutality displayed live, what remains of the group? Reduced to its low-ceilinged punk essence, its magic no longer operates. Reels, spits in the air and others “fockin'” launched with a vengeance does not change the case. Worse, they give a pathetic side to the affair, further accentuated by the dress worn by one of the guitarists like a provocative banner – wow, the seminarians lost in the festival must be shocked.

This mediocre performance takes nothing away from the triumph of Fontaines DC, who came to defend their third album, the excellent Skinty Fia. Both mocking and whiny, cradled in punk and britpop, the little prodigies – the group of slappers has only existed for five years –, already playing everything in control, do not need to press very hard on the throttle to get the engine roaring, unlike Idles.

The quintet connects its stubborn and sensitive melodies (special mention for these beautiful versions ofI don’t belong, Nabokov and I love you). Singer Grian Chatten perfectly embodies the band’s touch: there is Ian Curtis in his fragility and his taste for poetry, Liam Gallagher in his mortuary, his quickdraw and his vocal approximations. Noble ancestry, who could expand Fontaines DC’s empire far beyond the rock realm in years to come.

Fontaines DC – Idles: post-punk duel at Rock en Seine