Aficionados of modern post-punk and lovers of bands such as The Murder Capital should be all over the poems of John Keats. They burst with lyrical introspection and compassion. It was Keats who, in 1818, penned “When I have fears that I may cease to be/ Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,” examining the fear of dying young, before achieving all that he wanted to create. It concludes with an image of the speaker left in a place of isolation and desolation: “Then on the shore/ Of the wide world I stand alone, and think/ Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink.” Keats didn’t know he’d die of tuberculosis at 25, three years later, but he always feared an early demise.
When you discover that The Murder Capital’s debut album is named When I Have Fears, you wouldn’t then be surprised that it not only sprang in several ways from bereavement but it also reeks of mortality. Imagine a Sgt Pepper’s-style image of all the musicians that left us before their time and you could easily imagine that image as James McGovern’s audience as he sings, “I am a blissless star, corroded to the core,” and “I am the underworld,/ The one you want to leave,” on ‘For Everything’. Similarly, you’d be forgiven for wondering whether Ian Curtis was jittering around the studio spectrally adding “to the radio” every time when McGovern recorded, “Failing this, let’s dance and cry,” on ‘Don’t Cling To Life’.
The late Sean Hughes pointed out that Ireland had more than its fair share of writers, but elsewhere they were simply referred to as ‘drunks’. Yet the most sober existential poetry and the thudding portent of guitar, bass and drums form the fundament of the album. The Murder Capital feel unashamedly and joyously literary. Closing track, ‘Love Love Love’ enables you to construct a melancholic narrative around such images as “In the rain, the romance lay.”
The album exemplifies how The Murder Capital give serve up hypnotic, breakneck heartache with high-speed shoutalong choruses reminiscent of IDLES or Fontaines DC on tracks such as ‘More Is Less’ and ‘Feeling Fades’. Yet the mid-section of the album has the slower feeling of The Cure on Disintegration. Penultimate track, ‘How The Streets Adore Me Now’ is especially funereal, sombre piano knelling just below the basso profundo ‘Tom Waits has been on the lozenges’ vocal line.
As much as words like ‘savage’, ‘deadly’ and ‘murder’ can remind you that life is nasty, brutish and short, if you put them into Irish slang, then you could easily ‘murder’ a Guinness or use the first two adjectives to sum up just how bloody exciting something is. This album manages to capture both such inferences. Novelist Edna O’Brien once opined, “When anyone asks me about the Irish character, I say look at the trees. Maimed, stark and misshapen, but ferociously tenacious.” Such energetic, bittersweet tenacity will surely take The Murder Capital a long way in the near future.
When I Have Fears is out on August 16th via Human Seasons Records.