Valentine’s Day is coming up and you’re racking your brain for ways to treat that special someone. You’ve pored over restaurant menus, cinema listings, wine tastings, but nothing’s cutting it. Then, like a Magic Bus cutting through the morning fog in the nick of time, it comes to you. What could be more romantic, you think to your clever self, than 10 warm Carlsbergs and two tickets to watch shadowy post punks The Murder Capital at Manchester Academy 2?
Something’s in the water in Ireland. The post punk scene there is going off. Joining frontrunners Fontaines D.C and a raft of great smaller bands like Just Mustard and Silverbacks, The Murder Capital arrived last year with their brilliant debut album, When I Have Fears. With the odd pocket of shelter here and there, this record rages and swells like a storm, ripping through topics like grief and existential anxiety with unblinking focus.
Opener ‘For Everything’ calls this elemental energy into being. Grinding guitars (Damien Tuit, Cathal Roper), vicious bass (Gabriel Paschal Blake) and thrashing drums (Diarmuid Brennan) provide a bed of nails for singer James McGovern’s bleak poetry, which he delivers with a lush tenor and thick Dublin accent. The following ‘More Is Less’ is even rawer, hurtling along under McGovern’s urgent demand: “More, more, more!”.
The band are a quintet, but there are two more people very much present on this record. The first is producer Mark Ellis AKA Flood (New Order, Nick Cave, U2), who does wonders to capture the blistering energy of The Murder Capital’s live shows. The second is a close friend of the band whose suicide inspired not only their name, but the very fabric of their debut album.
When I Have Fears is in many ways five boys’ response to their friend’s death. “You could have watched it all”, James McGovern laments on the tender ‘On Twisted Ground’, his words wreathed in the most disarmingly beautiful vocal melody. Watch the video below, captured by a fan at their Paris show last year, and you’ll see the authenticity of emotion – expressed fearlessly – that lies behind tracks such as this.
That word – ‘authenticity’ – crops up a lot in relation to this band. Of course, nearly every musician, if pressed, would claim authenticity to be a guiding principle their work. It’s just that with The Murder Capital, it so clearly is. Each one of their songs feels like a mirror held up to themselves and to the world they’ve found themselves in. Every word, every note is a naked expression of life through their eyes.
The level of emotional investment The Murder Capital put into their recorded music, they double live. From raucous aggression to wounded love, they wear everything on their sleeves when they perform. Valentine’s Day or not, their upcoming gig at Manchester Academy 2 is one of our most anticipated of this new year.