The Murder Capital
Review by George Wainwright
The Murder Capital – Adoration in the face of Grief
In the words of frontman James McGovern, “We’ve all seen bands do that thing where it’s just like ‘well, here you go again…’” Against a cataclysmic post-punk landscape, ‘The Murder Capital’ are a band hellbent on making themselves stand out from the crowd. Having established themselves early on as a blistering, unmissable live act, the abrupt arrival of the pandemic presented the Irish five-piece with an entirely new challenge; to do nothing. With the shutters down on live music, McGovern and company seemingly vanished into the ether. Their explosive return would come in the form of ‘Gigi’s Recovery’, a part fictitious, part autobiographical second album brimming with all the intensity and anguish of their debut. The shackles are finally off for ‘The Murder Capital’, returning to stages across the continent with a ferocious new repertoire.
Shrouded in shadow, the band takes to the stage soundtracked by a spoken word monologue, the first track from ‘Gigi’s Recovery’. McGovern’s gravelly voice echoes around the room, before the man himself steps into the spotlight, adorned in darkly tinted sunglasses. The opening song of the show, ‘Crying’, is also cut from their second album, a brooding number which draws sonic inspiration from Shoegaze classics of the late 90’s. Addressing the audience, McGovern demands that a pit be opened up, to which the eager crowd duly obliges. Towering above the masses like an almighty deity, guitarist Cathal Roper rips into a raucous rendition of ‘More Is Less’. McGovern wastes no time before diving headlong off the front of the stage, landing heavily atop the outstretched arms of the pit.
With the focus being predominantly on their debut deep cuts, the band rattle through songs stripped from their first album, ‘When I Have Fears’. Fan favourite ‘Love, Love, Love’ recalls the earliest days of ‘The Murder Capital’, a desperate outpouring of fear and anger, but above all else, adoration in the face of grief. In a similar vein, ‘Green & Blue’ exuberates abundant ferocity and anguish. Intended to decelerate the breakneck tempo, McGovern removes his shades and stares fixedly at the crowd. His sunken eyes mask a deep sorrow, as if recalling a haunting memory, or else attempting to repress one. The ensuing song entitled ‘On Twisted Ground’ details the death by suicide of a close friend of the band. Atop a melodic bass line, McGovern rues over the raw emotions such a tragic passing entails: guilt, sorrow, denial. “You could’ve watched it all, oh dearest friend” he whimpers, with the occasional crack in his voice. Come the end of the last verse, McGovern takes a shuddering breath into the microphone, as if inhaling the very essence of life itself.
Raising spirits, the band road tests new songs from their latest record, ‘Gigi’s Recovery’. ‘Only Good Things’ recalls the subtleties of falling in love with a significant other, such as noticing their name on a street sign. Elsewhere on the set, ‘The Stars Will Leave Their Stage’ pushes the band’s admiration for electronic music to the fore, with dashes of ambient elements. The show concludes with a double-header of singles released ahead of the second album. ‘Return My Head’ is ‘The Murder Capital’ at their most vulnerable, gut-wrenching lyrics masqueraded by a fearsome instrumentation which sees McGovern back amongst the raging pit. Curtain closer ‘Ethel’ is the namesake of a fictitious firstborn, as well as a homage to the band’s Irish roots. Amongst all the morbid angst of the evening, ‘Ethel’ represents a return to a place of strength, hope and happiness. Wherever there is shadows there is sunlight, and for every untimely death is a beautiful, newborn baby Ethel.
McGovern’s reluctance to double down sonically has established his band as one of the most intriguing live acts to emerge over the past several years. With likenesses to Irish contemporaries ‘Fontaines DC’ and punk-rock stalwarts ‘Idles’, ‘The Murder Capital’ have already carved out a place for themselves amongst their more successful peers. Loaded with energy, passion and a degree of unpredictability, it’s uncertain to say where the band will end up next. Be it another autobiographical magnum opus, or else a further three year hiatus, only good things await ‘The Murder Capital’.