ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THE 405 (NOW DEFUNCT)
Post-punk had its glorious beginning in the UK during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, while the early ‘2000s saw American bands reduce its pillars into hamfisted reiterations. Needless to say, the genre is now experiencing a true post-punk revival, but this time, Ireland is its safe haven. With the likes of politically-conscious D.C. FONTAINES and viciously chaotic Girl Band rising through the ranks, this influx of talent has provided cause for belief that something special is brewing in the waters of Ireland at the moment. Whatever that "something" is, it has helped birth some of the best new punk outfits onto the scene that we've seen in a long while. But one band, in particular, has caused a very special kind of commotion—commotion that even had Idles frontman Joe Talbot deeming them, “soon to be the best band in Europe.”
That band is Dubland’s The Murder Capital. Even with a name as imposing such, this outfit doesn’t necessarily make the most visceral noise, neither do they radiate with an unhinged amount of energy as say, a black midi. But what makes The Murder Capital so appealing, is the unconventional manner in which they create cathartic moments. Rather than reacting to political turmoil or rocking out just for kicks, The Murder Capital with their debut album titled When I Have Fears, draw from a well of downtrodden sound and themes, among them—loss and mortality. The result is unequivocally mournful—an atmosphere that yields beauty from a hushed and slow-burn rendering of pain, seldom found in punk rock, today.
This is not to say the band’s debut is without moments of throttling noise. The single that started it all, 'Feeling Fades' is one of the most propulsive tracks released all year, period. Though it set a deceiving tone for what was to come from the band, The Murder Capital’s furious introduction to the world immediately proved that they can gnash their teeth as violent as their counterparts.
Though brief, the band’s uproarious noise continues to rattle a few ears on the chugging opening track, ‘For Everything,” but then seeps into the following cut, ‘More Is Less.' A pissed off performance, to say the least, the raucous ‘More Is Less’ delivers a brutal beatdown while discussing the depravity of humankind and its animalistic desires: “If I gave you what you wanted, you'd never be full / As the trappings of your boyish mind become unshakeable…”
With more than enough flagrant energy to satiate the average punk, The Murder Capital—still—is most affecting through its delicate and understatedly sad musings on life and death. In fact, the rest of the record sees the band tap into poetic introversion that is both broad enough to latch onto, yet intimate enough to impress your own experiences and fears. Though there are a few remaining passages that’ll spike adrenaline levels, albeit brief ones, the majority of this record seers its way into listeners’ hearts, one delicate (but equally impactful) word at a time.
Lyrics concerning modern anxieties and vulnerability are not new marks of discussion within the post-punk genre, however, McGovern and the crew internalize the turmoil around them so deeply that it feels uncomfortably personal at times. Needless to say, personal may be an understatement when considering this album’s emotional core. In fact, this album rests on the aftermath of a friend’s untimely suicide.
No matter which tracks you flip to— from ‘Slowdance I' to the ironically life-affirming 'Don't Cling To Life’—the ghost of the band’s dear friend haunts over this record and drives the members’ thoughts on mortality and the trials and tribulations that define it.
This brings us to the album's linchpin—the emotive fulcrum that pushes The Murder Capital's debut into devastating territory. Clocking in just over six minutes long, the mournful hum of ‘On Twisted Ground’ is a brilliant yet emotionally disarming ode to the frontman’s best friend. As an inconsolable bassline slowly throbs and swells toward a breathtaking climax, the somber McGovern delivers a vocal performance that conjures the disheveled brokenness of a Nick Cave or Leonard Cohen. But it doesn't stop there. ‘On Twisted Ground’ hits especially hard when at the four-minute mark, McGovern tears down all emotional barriers, crying out, “Oh, my dearest friend / How it came to this / With your searing end Into the abyss…” Hearing McGovern breath-fully cry after unleashing the above lines may very well be the most sobering musical moment of 2019.
If there is one thing to take away from The Murder Capital’s incredible debut record, it is that hopelessness can be reconciled and welcomed, from which beauty can be gleaned. This is not to suggest that the band is trying to search for some silver lining amidst tragedy—it’s much more nuanced than that. Instead, they embrace the company of all of life’s tragedies and pain, which is a complex conclusion many find difficult of accepting or even reaching.
THE 405 RATING: 8.5/10