by Phil Scarisbrick
There can be few bands in history whose shadow has hung over so many acts that have been born in their wake than Joy Division. Their sound was so unique that even when there is only a passing resemblance, the influence is overt. To break out from this shadow, and transcend it to become something that stands up in its own right, is not an easy task. One act who have shown promise in the pursuit of this with their early singles is Dublin-based quintet, The Murder Capital. This week they have released their first long player, When I Have Fears: a sprawling ten song set that covers the full spectrum of human emotion.
The Flood-produced record kicks off with For Everything – a frenetic and uncomfortable opener that recalls a solo trip that singer, James McGovern, made to Oslo in search of isolation. McGovern’s vocal ebbs between defiance, sadness and tragedy as the backing swirls around to create a powerful sense of dread. A bright, strummed guitar adds a moment of light for the final minute of the track, before falling away to leave just drums and a looping – ‘For Everything/For Nothing’ vocal. Green & Blue was written in the aftermath of a friend’s suicide – an event that colours the whole record in various forms – and was triggered into life by a documentary by photographer, Francesca Woodman. In the aftermath of a tragedy, there is always a disconnect. It is an isolation that is often unfathomable, clouded by the grief that overtakes everything else. Woodman’s documentary managed to give the group a doorway into understanding this isolation, and the resulting track blends in these ideas.
At the centre of the album are a pair of slow-burning tracks – Slowdance I and Slowdance II. The former sits at an almost uncomfortably plodding pace, always threatening to speed up, but never managing to take off. Built around a creeping bass line that keeps the Nick Cave-evoking vocals and guitars together. Once the bass falls away, it segues into part two. The bass shifts tone to give a more comfortable feel to a similar musical feel. On Twisted Ground is the most overt reference to their friend’s suicide. A strummed bass backs McGovern’s mournful vocal, as the guitar adds odd flickers of colour. It is a definite highlight on the record, adding a sparsely-arranged, cinematic sound to such a tragic subject matter.
Feeling Fades follows, seeing the introspective tone fall away to unveil an angry diatribe that resonates with a beautiful brutality, while How The Streets Adore Me Now creeks into life as a piano backed song that sees McGovern attempt his best Tom Waits drawl. Closing with Love, Love, Love, the angst and isolation that has permeated throughout the whole record crystallises over an angular soundtrack, before disintegrating into a ball of noise and nothingness.
The Joy Division comparisons will be inevitable, and they’re justified to a degree. Not only because of the music, but also in the subject matters that the band take on. They aren’t simply another post-punk band trying to imitate though. There is a real substance to what they’ve created. The lyrics are incredibly open, there is no pretence or allusions, just an honest account of the contents of McGovern’s consciousness. It is a stunning debut, and one of the most exciting of the year so far.
Secret Meeting score: 81