Fontaines D.C. – ‘Starburster’ single review: the sound of a band with no fear


the fourth incarnation of the Dublin quintet is their most fearless yet

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Fontaines D.C. have returned this week with long-awaited new music. ‘Starburster’, an infectious new single, looks set to propel the band into the stratosphere.

In a promo photo issued the day before the song’s announcement, the band debuted their new look, which you’d be forgiven for thinking was a ‘Billie Joe Armstrong cosplaying every Prodigy member at once’ competition. This look translates perfectly into the music, however. Chatten delivers a vocal performance in continuity with where Skinty Fia’s closer, ‘Nabokov’, left off. This time, however, he’s left the prolonged whines at home, and kicked the door down fighting with a snarl. Although the track tails off into a gentler end, there is no denying that ‘Starburster’ has set the tone for a more aggravated sound. The palette is unrestrained – Tom (drums) lays down drums that were destined for a hip-hop sample, whilst Carlos (guitar) delivers those all-too-familiar twangs we are so used to hearing cut through a Fontaines track. Inspired by a panic attack frontman Chatten had at St. Pancras, he comes up for air in between verses with an audible gasp, which is fitting considering the vocal delivery leaves no time for recreational breathing. There is a real sense of ferocity in the delivery of the instrumentation, the sort of danger in line with the experience at one of their acclaimed live shows. Even the piano feels angry.

There is an obvious sonic progression there, too. Long-time fans will not be surprised at the creative direction – the band have been teasing a more left field (see where this is going) approach for a while now, meddling with darker, nu-metal tones on tracks like Skinty Fia. The influence is clear – in their two year break, Chatten laid down vocals over Irish hip-hop trio Kneecaps’ tune, ‘Better Way To Live’, while also teaming up with Leftfield (there it is!) for ‘Full Way Round’. Both of these have obviously made an impact. This new sound has arguably always been the essence of the band’s sonic appeal, revealing itself more as the years go by. Endless half-band DJ sets around the UK over the past 2 years have to count for something, eh?

Now to the music video. As usual, they have thrown convention out of the window bound at the ankle with a bag of rocks. Taking a more narrative approach, with intermittent breaks in the song to allow Chatten’s character some autonomy, it has a very cinematic edge. Whilst I do think that the interruptions detract from the listening experience, this isn’t an mp3 file, it’s a music video. So as long as this didn’t translate to the streaming versions, it’s fine. And it didn’t. So it’s fine!

Just days before release, it was announced, rather discreetly, that the band had signed to XL Recordings, home to Radiohead and Thom Yorke’s various other projects. You can definitely tell. The repeated string loop as the song opens feels fresh out of In Rainbows. But that isn’t the only new aspect – the record was produced by Arctic Monkeys veteran James Ford. Although there isn’t a noticeable Monkeys influence over this particular track, the snippet shared to the band’s social media to tease their new studio album is eerily reminiscent of ‘Sculptures Of Anything Goes’, which would make sense considering the band spent the back end of 2023 touring America with Turner & Co.

Speaking of the coming studio album, Romance, the band’s fourth LP, hits the shelves on August 23rd, the same weekend they plan to take Reading and Leeds by storm for the second time in 3 years. A pre-order link confirmed the hopes of many when it revealed that the UK & Ireland tour announcement was pending. It will be interesting to see how the band reinvent themselves on the stage – they’ve dropped the formality of previous looks and have evidently been drawn in by the hot pink of Carlos’ hair over the last year. There is absolutely no expectation, no way of knowing what the band will do when they finally hit the stage again this summer for a string of European festival shows.

No matter what, if ‘Starburster’ is anything to go by, Romance promises to be captivating. Fontaines are hot on the heels of the indie greats of our time, with no sign of slowing down just yet.



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