With The Murder Capital’s latest album being taken on tour, Tiarnan O’Neill caught them perform live to see if their live shows live up to the studio album.
The Murder Capital’s latest album, Gigi’s Recovery, released earlier this year, proved that the band is here to stay. It not only represents a triumph of musical growth within the band, but also serves as a landmark record pushing forward the genre of post-punk. Released over two years after their electrically intense debut, When I Have Fears, this latest effort shows a new side of the band. How exactly have the Murder Capital grown, and what have they, as the title suggests, recovered from?
The answer lies woven into each song of Gigi’s Recovery, as the narrative constructed throughout the album is one of change and redemption. Having had the pleasure of seeing the band perform their new songs live in October, the answer to the question of whether this new sound holds up live, is a resounding yes. Damien McGovern walks on with the expected swagger for the frontman of a post-punk band formed in BIMM – not much. It doesn’t matter though, anyone is cool on stage, and when you have tracks such as ‘Don’t Cling to Life’ to belt out, you are going to own the stage. And they did. The drummer, Diarmuid Brennan, counted them in, and they began an intense symphony of guitar, bass, keys, and McGovern’s vocals to cut through it all.
McGovern walks on with the expected swagger for the frontman of a post-punk band formed in BIMM – not much.
It was captivating, and the energy of the crowd around me only increased for the next hour and a half, all the while the band consistently pumped out track after track of raw vigour. The highlights were their newer tracks, especially ‘Ethel’ and ‘Gigi’s Recovery.’
When listening to the new album, the first thing that strikes you is the gently unnerving opening track, ‘Existence.’ Between McGovern shakily whispering “existence fading,” and a synth that slowly begins to drown out the rest of the song, you are immediately drawn into the album, which then drops seamlessly into the next track, ‘Crying,’ where the narrative of the album begins to form conceptually. ‘Crying’ follows the narrator, McGovern, through his reaction to a breakup. Over the course of the album, we see the stages of McGovern processing grief and healing. “But I’m still waiting for the sign,” McGovern laments on ‘Return my Head,’ from crying to denial, he then ventures into the anger and depression fuelled melancholy of ‘Ethel,’ singing about drunken nights at a bar, his head in the crosshairs of a metaphorical gun, McGovern ventures deep into his darkest and most absurd moment. From here, he can only rise up with the acoustic, ‘Belonging,’ representing bargaining in his stages of grief.
It is at this point that both McGovern and the listeners begin to realise the nature of the change that is taking place, both on the surface level of the breakup and the subtextual ideas being communicated about questioning the inner self. As the album progresses the lyrics become more orderly and simultaneously, more abstract. As McGovern processes his grief, his songwriting shifts focus from emotive to intellectual. The pivot point for this is in ‘The Lie Becomes the Self,’ wherein McGovern directly addresses the meaning of the lyrics, “The lie becomes the self / outruns the self.’ This dive into philosophy is tinged at the end of the song with a pained sense of reality; “what is it all about if I can’t hear you laugh?” These separate narrative threads of an emotional breakup and the philosophical exploration of selfhood weave together in every lyric. The sonic fingerprint of each song reads into the meaning of the narrative, and all of these elements culminate together in the title track, ‘Gigi’s Recovery,’ providing catharsis and relief to the emotional build up.
McGovern provides a simple solution for us at the end of this track: “Surrendering is everything.” Then, mirroring how our journey started, McGovern replaces “existence fading,” for the uplifting and defiant “existence changing” on the closing track: his journey of recovery is complete. The way the songs are crafted reflects this lyrical journey; new sounds have been brought into the production mix for this album. The usual guitars are often paired with droning ambient synths. At the beginning of the album, this presents itself as disordered raw chaos, slowly progressing towards a more calculated, precise sound that brings together all of the new elements of instrumentation. The strong guitars and head-bouncing choruses are still to be found, such as on the cathartic ‘Ethel’. However, the new ideas cement the evolution of the band’s sound as worthwhile - from subtle experiments into sampling by McGovern, or the drum-and-bass inspired breakbeat from Brennan heard on ‘A Thousand Lives,’ to the synths that sound more like Radiohead than post-punk.
McGovern provides a simple solution for us at the end of this track: 'Surrendering is everything.'
From the rampant mosh-pitting to McGovern’s stage diving and crowd-surfing antics, the concert was visceral and transcendent. By the time the lights flicked on and the crowd began shuffling out, McGovern had jumped down the stage and hopped into the crowd. He pushed his way to the front, out the door and walked over to the merch booth. He stood there as the crowd washed out and passed him, saying hello to every fan, signing anything that was handed to him. Unprepared for this showing of appreciation, I thanked him for the performance, and asked him to sign what I had on hand: a train ticket and my t-shirt, he laughed and obliged.
The band takes their music seriously, and their fanbase might start doing just the same.
The band takes their music seriously, and their fanbase might start doing just the same. The Murder Capital’s sound has definitely evolved, the cataclysmic highs of When I Have Fears are still present, but so too are quieter, more reflective moments. These ideas are brought to life with a wider and more experimental focus on instrumentation, matched with a new emphasis on narrative depth in the lyrics. Speaking about their music with FaceCulture, McGovern said, “It’s a reflection of where we’re at. We are the work, songwriting reflects us.” I must insist, the reflection is brilliant.