The Murder Capital: When I Have Fears review – a raw, rampaging debut

5 / 5 stars 5 out of 5 stars.

(Human Season Records)
Dublin five-piece draws on post-punk from Joy Division to Idles, but their thrillingly unnerving energy is all their own

Erupts with electric shocks … the Murder Capital.
Erupts with electric shocks … the Murder Capital.

Post-punk has been a fruitful genre for many a young band in recent years, with careers sustained by sounding like a facsimile of Joy Division. Dublin-based quintet the Murder Capital are surely familiar with that ensemble, and some of Diarmuid Brennan’s staccato drum beats would fit snugly on Unknown Pleasures. However, the band’s palette draws on decades of the genre, stretching from early luminaries Modern English to more recent pacesetters Idles; urgent guitars cohabit with gentler piano and violin.

The Murder Capital: When I Have Fears album art work
Pinterest
The Murder Capital: When I Have Fears album artwork

As a young engineer, producer Flood assisted New Order, Nick Cave and the Sound and he has helped the Murder Capital channel their blistering live performances into a debut that is unsettling and thrilling. There are strange noises in dark corners and surprises when you least expect them. Opener For Everything erupts with electric shocks, but jolts from the brink into something more elegiac and mournful. More Is Less and Feeling Fades are raging and brutal, but Slowdance I and Slowdance II are pensive and slow-burning. On Twisted Ground, their most disarmingly beautiful melody, is simply vocalist James McGovern gently singing over Gabriel Blake’s hauntingly lovely bassline.

Concerns such as fear of adulthood, grief, anxiety and vulnerability are hardly revolutionary but here are more than tropes or artifice. An undercurrent of existential unease (momentarily pinpointed when McGovern refers to a “frail democracy”) bleeds into raw personal concerns. A friend’s suicide inspired the band name and colours the album’s emotional cliff edge. Green & Blue – written in the aftermath – powerfully reaches for a connection that is no longer there.

Don’t Cling to Life, written after a band-member’s mother’s death during recording, considers life’s sweetness and brevity (“There’s nothing on the other side”). And yet, the band never quite succumb to doom and gloom. These songs’ uplifting, human heart is typified by epic closer Love, Love, Love, virtually Philip Larkin’s “What will survive of us is love” line made into music. It’s an outstanding debut from a great new band who play it like they mean it.