Dublin-based rock band The Murder Capital dropped their debut album When I Have Fears in August of 2019. The quintet signed to Human Season Records in 2018 and found a producer in Flood, the engineer behind the work of artists from PJ Harvey to U2 to Nine Inch Nails. A close friend’s suicide inspired the album’s title and its themes of death and mental illness; the band’s home city informed lyrics about gentrification and homelessness in the name of development. Murder Capital employs an angry post-punk sound brimming with tenderness and vulnerability, culminating in a powerful and nuanced record.
“For Everything” kicks off the album with distant guitar wails, foreboding feedback thudding, and an irregular racing beat that warps into an unrelenting bass and drums line. Guitar players Damien Tuit and Cathal Roper play duet lines, matching each other note for note and creating a tense conversation between sounds. A precise meter and rhyme scheme directs the bleak lyrics, keeping up with the tone the instrumentation built. Just when it seems like the song has a certain structure, it takes a turn in the latter half for the slower, cleaner, and sadder. Vocalist James McGovern sends the song out with a chant-like refrain over bare drumming: “For everything, for nothing.”
The longest track on the record is the slow-burning “Green & Blue.” Between the drums fluttering between chambers in the mix, the rumbling bass, and the melancholy guitar riffs, this song wraps itself tight around the listener before the vocal line starts. McGovern’s vocals are aching and expressive; the bridge features one of the most delicate singing moments on the album, a welcome contrast to the Diarmuid Brennan’s rapid, fiery drumming. “Green & Blue” shifts and evolves over its six minutes into one of the most rewarding songs on When I Have Fears.
“On Twisted Ground” is a standout track, a minor key downshift song that introduces itself with a beautiful, promising chord progression. McGovern’s baritone shines here and elevates the lyrics from moody to wounding. The inflections that creep into his voice adds to the song’s moving message. At times he sings a hair above a whisper, another time a forceful low note, the next a weepy warble ekes itself out. Knowing that the album was inspired by the tragic loss of a friend to mental illness, hearing McGovern sound near tears has he repeats “You could have watched it all” is bound to tighten chests or elicit wet eyes.
Despite the straightforward punk rock sound, this record has a few moments of surprise: the viola outro on “Slowdance II” and the piano-led “How the Streets Adore Me Now” are sonic standouts. The musicianship throughout is never in question; Gabriel Paschal Blake’s bass playing doesn’t receive the same spotlight time that the guitars and drums get, but it lays a vital foundation in all of the songs that would be missed without it. The Murder Capital brings a mournful edge to the blossoming Irish punk scene, and their debut record earns its stripes.