The Murder CapitalEVOL @ O2 Academy Liverpool 25/2/20
The door to the venue is unhinged as I walk in and sirens ring across a dark, frosty night. It’s a setting which matches the atmosphere conveyed in the haunting riffs which introduce THE MURDER CAPITAL’s debut album, When I Have Fears.
As the band take positions on stage, the arrival of lead singer James McGovern is the most anticipated. He bursts onto the scene, his white shirt embroidered with multi-coloured flowers, the top three buttons left undone.
The lurid atmosphere the band have draped across the stage is no surprise. The Irish post-punk quintet’s music is ridden with angst and dissatisfaction. Quite simply they refuse to hide it. It’s carved into every groove on their debut LP. It’s carved into every band photo (non-smiling of course). It’s even more carefully woven into their lyricism. Even when moments of light begin to appear – via lighter guitar progressions on Love, Love, Love – it’s rudely interrupted by droning bass riffs. The essence of urgency is the purpose of The Murder Capital; something has to change, and it has to do so fast. Vocalist James McGovern explained such in a recent interview: “We just wanna talk about it [homelessness, suicide and mental health issues] as much as possible, and make sure that the government knows that we’re not happy with the standard of where it’s at.”
The very acknowledgment of the alignment of social conditions as a source of unhappiness, which in their most depressing state can exacerbate behaviour synonymous with mental health problems, is a step forward in the music industry. People no longer happy with pseudoscientific ways of addressing such issues through week-long waits of support through helplines. Instead, When I Have Fears sounds like a plea for a shift towards brighter pastures. More caring methods of governing. A plea to the good in people to help those who aren’t the same, aren’t dressed like everyone else, think differently, act differently. It is the publication of a scar in our society which makes this album one of the most pertinent efforts this year.
Despite the bass-heavy riffs, and a shadowy vocal which shrouds every sense of light this band emits, they are doing all of this, on stage tonight, to highlight the need for hope. Through the dark streets of Dublin it is easy to imagine gentrification projects, and dark low-lit streets becoming hotspots for petty crimes. Contrarily, it is just as easy to imagine the glimmer of one street lamp left lit amongst the cries of blackness coursing from the Murder Capital. It is that imagery which the band cling to.
Undeniably the highlight of tonight is Twisted Ground. Just vocal and bass guitar light the way for a melody which is most beguiling. It is a frank reminder of the multifaceted nature of The Murder Capital. For now they live in the gloomy shadow of unpaid bills, dodgy shop corners and dark alleyways, but in a heartbeat they can jump into the belief of hope. Shortly after the song finishes, McGovern explains about the importance of communication when considering the fragility of mental health. “Keep talking, let people know how you’re doing,” he says. A poignant message which lingers on after they leave the stage.
On their most popular single, Don’t Cling To Life, McGovern orders the crowd to sit down. Without a moment’s hesitation the 500 strong audience clamber to the floor. “Very obedient,” he utters. It is at these moments and the resulting crowd surfing where The Murder Capital have their audience in the palm of their hand. With such a reassuring message, it’s a safe hold to be in.