The Murder Capital
When I Have Fears
The Murder Capital hail from Dublin, Ireland, and are part of a larger explosion of art-punk and post-punk coming out of the city in recent years, primarily with bands like Girl Band and Fontaines DC. The Murder Capital also get compared to their British peers in Idles, Slaves, and Shame. But what The Murder Capital do more than those bands, who all play a pretty fierce, assaultative brand of music, is remind us of the initial roots of post-punk in the music of bands like Joy Division and Bauhaus. Yes, Bauhaus are remembered as a Goth band, but their roots were post-punk. And a lot of the guitars of Damien Tuit and Cathal Roper are more reminiscent of the fret-board wizardry of Daniel Ash than anything else. And the rhythm section of Gabriel Paschal Burke (bass) and Diarmuid Brennan (drums) both recalls Bauhaus’s brotherly duo of David J. and Kevin Haskins as much as it does Joy Division’s thundering drums and moody bass. This creates a sonic palate for the powerful, very masculine vocals of frontman James McGovern.
Take album opener, ‘For Everything,’ which starts off with a slow burn of feedback looping over itself before the bass and drums roll in ominously and then the guitars begin to shriek over top, descending onto the rhythm section, creating a delicious post-punk rollick before the drums roll, and the bass and guitars slide down. Eventually McGovern’s voice hits us: ‘I am a blissless star/Corroded through the core/The very many know/I’m dodging holes…’ From there, the song crashes and burns thumps and hollers before coming to a sudden end.
Second track ‘More is Less’ is more familiar for today’s post-punk viciousness, starting over a burning riff and McGovern declaring ‘If I gave you what you want/you would never be full.’ The chorus is McGovern yelling dementedly ‘More more more/More is less.’ In other words, this is where we smash our head on the punk rock.
But from there, When I Have Fears smoulders more than it rocks out, and this is perhaps something The Murder Capital is better suited to do than their contemporaries. Like Fontaines DC’s frontman Grian Chatten, McGovern’s voice is dominant on this album, though he is far less likely to bust out the pretentious wankery of Chatten who, at times lectures us more than he sings on Fontaines’ début album, Dogrel (not that this isn’t a brilliant album, fully deserving of being short-listed for the Mercury Prize), like some other Dublin-band frontman we’ve heard of. Instead, McGovern commands the music and as powerful as his voice is, it is particularly well-suited for the burn of The Murder Capital’s music, as it does not veer into the sentimental, it stays powerful and strong, not unlike perhaps the greatest of the original post-punk frontmen, Andrew Eldritch of Sisters of Mercy.
And perhaps this is the biggest problem with post-punk and art punk music in general: it is well-nigh impossible to listen to it without hearing the ancestors. All of these bands are descendants of the same grouping of bands like Mission of Burma, Public Image Ltd., Bauhaus, Joy Division, Sisters of Mercy, and even King Crimson. And given the margins of post-punk, like punk itself, are so narrow, these younger bands can’t help but channel the ancients. Is this a problem? I don’t think so. The Murder Capital wear their influences on their sleeves, but they also update the post-punk sound, add a vicious ferocity that was missing in the late 70s and early 80s (as do Idles, Slaves, Shame, and Fontaines) and that gives us something, if not brand new, then modernized.