A band who debuted with one of the most captivating post-punk albums of this century, Dublin’s The Murder Capital prove they’re just as enthralling live in a blistering hour at The Bodega.
Everything to be said about The Murder Capital’s flawless debut album has already been said, yet its winding, pavemented laments and uncompromising guitar-backed sentiments invite more and more inspection and analysis with each listen of the 44-minute masterpiece. In a genre traditionally characterised by barebones instrumentation, When I Have Fears is just as versatile as it is mindful of its elders; the Joy Division comparison is apt in the album’s sparse, wailing turns, but the most thrilling moments come with the dense layers of cascading guitars and the introspective deprecation of vocalist James McGovern’s unrelenting self-commentary. A cocktail of innovation and inspiration mixed up in the studio and fit for a future classic, no doubt, but one which only becomes grittier and more realised on the live stage.
"The Murder Capital have already arrived, ready to murder any expectations in their path."
Anticipation propelled by The Murder Capital’s rapidly inflating name value and grown by a deafening pre-show tone from the speakers only became surpassed between songs as hungry punters waited for the countless highlights from the debut record. Opening with the building, drawling second single Green & Blue, the quintet wasted no time dishing out favourites, yet maintained a flow and narrative riding a constant peak, evasive of any filler. A simple call of ‘More’ from McGovern set up the opening notes of More Is Less, a damning take on entitlement, romance and longing. A passionate but stationary crowd quickly triggered the erratic frontman, who proceeded to break down the barrier between the audience and the deadpan band by forcing a moshpit with his bare hands mid-song. Once set off, the pit stayed alight for the remainder of the rip-roaring punk titan, much to McGovern’s pleasure.
"A cocktail of innovation and inspiration mixed up in the studio and fit for a future classic, no doubt, but one which only becomes grittier and more realised on the live stage."
Pleasure can’t, however, be said to be a theme which finds its way into much of The Murder Capital’s music and characterful live performance. On Twisted Ground was a surprising set highlight - the combination of McGovern’s sorrowful baritone and the understated bass of Gabriel Paschal Blake came to a heart-wrenching climax as the frontman fully engrossed himself in the despair of the tune, seemingly sobbing behind his hands in the intense closing moments. Slowdance I was introduced by McGovern as a song about ‘Leaving your house for too long, coming home, looking in the mirror and realising it’s you’, yet as the band seamlessly transitioned into the searing guitar of Slowdance II, McGovern departed the stage, allowing full focus on the almost shoegaze-level intricacy of the rest of the band’s instrumental work, duly creating a soundscape just as impenetrable as the record itself. McGovern’s move was primarily a practical one – he simply wasn’t required on stage – but it fitted the bipolar nature of his on-stage persona that dramatically as to almost feel like a work of theatre.
For a killer set front to back, the sheer resonance of the two closing cuts is a testament to the artistry of The Murder Capital. The familiar drum roll of album opener For Everything invigorated the crowd, yet the genius of the schizophrenic, poetic tune disallowed any crowd movement for longer than a matter of seconds. Nonetheless, McGovern carried the passion of his unbridled lyricism onto the stage and projected it with all the urgency of the studio recording. Debut single Feeling Fades was instead the one to grant the crowd a last burst of energy, as the communal chants of ‘So yet we float together’ ricocheted around the venue as a pumped-up McGovern furiously strutted around stage, frequently taking a minute to compose himself in the corner. In a stunt one could only have expected if previously in attendance at a Murder Capital gig, the rest of the five-piece minus drummer Diarmuid Brennan leaped into the pit, in the chaotic climax to a mesmerising show.
Commentators, journalists and the like may be tempted to describe The Murder Capital’s live show as ‘promising’, ‘exciting’, or ‘full of potential’. They wouldn’t be wrong, but the reason the band stand out in music today isn’t because of how good their future might be – it’s because of how f*cking good they are in the present. With an aesthetic which personifies James McGovern as a dark, morbid spirit and with a polished yet contorted wall of sound to match, The Murder Capital have already arrived, ready to murder any expectations in their path.