The attempts to categorise The Murder Capital have felt like more of an attempt to wedge them into the current musical zeitgeist than do anything useful. While their heavy influences from post-punk of the past is undeniable, there’s definitely a difference between them and the camp holding acts like Idles and Fontaines D.C. that they’re adjacent to, but would find it difficult to fit into. It’s not like the band themselves haven’t had the odd scattered single that would brush those boundaries, but The Murder Capital have ultimately grown into a band whose potential for experimentation is much greater, even from just a cursory look at their debut album When I Have Fears. This is an album looking at the indie crossover direction and heading in the complete opposite direction, and that can be an impressive feat in itself.
That said, it can be difficult to believe that The Murder Capital aren’t reaching above their station ever so slightly given the final result. In terms of breaking out of modern post-punk’s norms, When I Have Fears has the scope and willingness to embrace different approaches that would be required, and for as close to truly nailing it as The Murder Capital come, there’s a fairly consistent feeling that this hasn’t been fine-tuned to the best possible degree. It’s definitely still good though, showing an inventiveness in sounds that cross between oppressively bleak and heart-rendingly open, without fully crossing over to hit that apex point. There’s still plenty to like here, but the feeling that this is a debut is hard to ignore.
But honestly, even that’s not much of a criticism, especially given how much this album is designed to shine a light on a turbulent coming of age and the mountains of pressure that are piled on seemingly without a second thought; just take the sobriety and solemnity of Green And Blue, a song standing in the shadow of the work of photographer Francesca Woodward who took her own life at just twenty-two. The vulnerability on show is definitely where The Murder Capital hit their peak, like on the bleak Slowdance I that’s reprised just one track later as a droning crawl to highlight just how well the emotionality and menace are juxtaposed, or the mournful pianos of How The Streets Adore Me Now, with James McGovern bringing his vocals down to a low burr for a final result that’s almost reminiscent of Leonard Cohen in its presentation. On the flipside, when The Murder Capital lean into the bass-led post-punk that’s not as distanced from the standard, the sense of frustration is palpable, but it’s not nearly as compelling as when they really swing for the fences and try something new. A track like More Is Less doesn’t have the same degree of excitement or experimentation to it, and while they’re generally fine regardless, there’s an unevenness to the album that’s difficult to ignore. That said, in terms of tone and vibe, The Murder Capital remain solid throughout, producing grubby, street-level displays of emotions, whatever they may be, with McGovern’s natural Irish accent lending a sneering roughness that’s definitely appreciated. As heavily as the distance is emphasised, the overall effect isn’t that far removed from Fontaines D.C.’s Dogrel in its natural volatility, but blown outwards by The Murder Capital to allow greater room for their wider sound to shine through.
But for as different as the two may be, the mean average is roughly the same; The Murder Capital have their greater creative impulses, but Fontaines D.C.’s stripped-back approach is far more consistent and well-rounded overall. And while that’s definitely an issue that can hopefully be resolved further down the line, it doesn’t stop When I Have Fears from being its own distinct thing within its scene. There’s a level of creativity and emotionality that bleed together for moments that can be genuinely great, and it’s a testament to The Murder Capital’s willingness to push what they can do for something with the potential of being a lot more captivating. They’re not all the way there just yet, but from what’s on show here, the evidence speaks for itself.
For fans of: Girl Band, Bauhaus, Joy Division
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘When I Have Fears’ by The Murder Capital is released on 16th August on Human Season Records.