Nothing splits opinions than those end of year lists. Especially those which notify us about all the records we’ve either missed or have played to death. If the crucial When I Have Fears isn’t in the one that you’re reading in 2019, you’re looking in the wrong place.
The Dublin five-piece serve up a hypnotic, fragile and terrifyingly beautiful debut record. It lashes out, as the best post-punk records do, in all the right places. The empowering self-declaration that is captured is bigger and bolder than anything that’s come caterwauling this way for quite some time. Yet, it’s in the nightmarish lyrics of hate, coupled with raw human emotion, where we find a twisted catharsis. It’s the job of the listener to unpeel the layers and identify a complex piece of work much more than a solid wedge of post-punk to beat yourselves over the head with. You gotta love a record that makes you work!
Tonight’s sold out gig at York’s wonderful independent venue The Crescent, was scheduled a few months back in July, a month before When I Have Fears was released. The re-scheduling did them justice. Obviously, I mean the audience and venue, not the band. Information about the postponement got ‘round York quicker than a social media post about not getting Glasto tickets. The anticipation in the room on this October night bristled and buzzed with electricity. The brooding Dublin boys just needed to bring it. We were in the palm of their hands.
Curiously, the support band The Happy Couple, played with a cacophony which found fleeting elements of Sonic Youth and A Place to Bury Strangers. Although the harnessing of their sound got lost on the audience this somehow played-out in the opposite effect once The Murder Capital began. Joy Division, Mark E Smith even Sisters of Mercy are comparisons which have been made to this group, their taut gothic harmonies resonate melodiously in the best possible taste. The glaringly obvious figurehead and architect comes in the primitive intensity which James McGovern adopts.
During tonight’s gig there was one point in which he glared menacingly into the front row to ask why a young chap was too busy texting to watch his band. I never saw a phone lifted into the air to film any other part of the show directly after that. (Thank goodness)!
Their defiance demands respect, the jagged guitars play uniformly with almost complete military precision. These stage theatrics were supported best when the whole room went dark to enjoy the poetry of ‘On Twisted Ground.’ Bar the soft blue glow of a stage monitor or an exit sign, the space was black. The void had a voice which proceeded to describe the death of a friend. We watched on as McGovern shed a tear on the shoulder of his guitar player immediately afterwards. The make-up of the band, down to their very name, can be traced back to the suicide of a close friend.
Sustain and release is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Somehow bearing choked up feelings is infinitely harder, if it’s delivered with purpose. For The Murder Capital every note, every syllable, every beat either spits out or rewards admirably. The moment McGovern explained he was stood on that stage with his friends not one person in that room didn’t believe him. The moment they left the stage not one person in that room didn’t feel they were all connected to something much bigger.