Post-punk has always been characterized by its gloomy and foreboding mood. Its sound paints dark industrial complexes filled with workers slaving away in its tight walls, of oppressive governments and capitalists chipping away at the lives of their subjects for their own power or wealth. But what’s often overlooked within the genre is how emotional it can be.
That is what I realized after listening to the from Dublin based quintet The Murder Capital. After all, the reason why any piece of music exists boils down to the expression and fulfillment of emotions. These dour soundscapes and bleak narratives come from a sense of anguish and frustration, of unease and dissatisfaction. Something When I Have Fears offers in a masterful way.
The overall mood of these songs are inspired by the tragic suicide of a friend. From the uneasy rumbling noise of ‘For Everything’ (”I am the underworld, the one you want to leave”) to the raging pulse of ‘More Is Less’ (”If I gave you what you wanted you’d never be full”) I initially thought the record would be a constant pounding of furious energy. I am glad to have been wrong.
There’s a wide range of complex emotions expressed within the album, and the band doesn’t shy away from shifting their sound or stripping down a few instruments to fit these moods. ‘Green & Blue’ feels somber and empty, in search of a connection that’s now gone. ‘Slow Dance I’ and ‘Slow Dance II” is a slow burning epic with rich textures and carefully constructed noise patterns. A few hints of gothic darkwave can be heard here, with frontman James McGovern vocals shifting to a fuller baritone.
“On Twisted Ground” is completely stripped down, with only a guitar and vocal embellished by lead lines and the hissing of a tape machine. It’s quiet, mournful and an intimate reflection of life and loss. I’d dare anyone not to choke up at the line: “Oh, my dearest friend / How it came to this / with your searing end / Into the abyss”. Similarly, “How The Streets Adore Me Now” is a piano ballad ala Tom Waits with equal parts sweetness and sorrow. It covers the same emotional impact provided by the previous track albeit in a more vulnerable light that rounds out the whole picture.
The Murder Capital’s versatility is truly remarkable. These shifts in styles could have easily felt jarring or clunky, but instead they managed to make these changes strengthen the cohesion of the entire album.
The ending track “Love, Love, Love” concludes all these emotions. A song of acceptance and final goodbyes, tinged with anguish fear. It tightens up the whole narrative in a fulfilling conclusion. When I Have Fears this is not your ordinary debut, and I’m excited to see what the band has in store for the future.