LIVE REVIEW:

THE MURDER CAPITAl

@ THE EXCHANGE

Sean Turnland

Out of the darkness and droning tension, five men wielding buzz cuts and leather took to the stage, asserting authority from the get-go. Guitarists Damien Tuit and Cathal Roper took a relative back-seat to lay down underlying jabs of feedback, while vocalist James Mcgovern claimed centre stage with a volatile presence. They stormed through single 'More Is Less' from their 2019 debut When I Have Fears, while bassist Gabriel Paschal Blake scowled as if asking for a fight - screams of “more, more, more!” aimed at the stagnant audience cut like a personal attack.

 

Although an impressive opening, it seemed to forebode a journey down the well-trodden path of aggressive, 'blokey' post-punk; and as the gruff Irish twang of a boisterous frontman was surrounded by chugging guitar squeals and throttled bass – all hauled together by Diarmuid Brennan’s unwavering floor toms – the usual lazy comparison to Fontaines D.C appeared to ring true.

 

But the energetic tempo soon faded, and the aptly named 'Slow Dance I & II' let the group stand clear of their contemporaries. Rhythms began to syncopate and doubled guitar stabs juddered through the room – a welcome return to an atmosphere plucked straight out of Skying era The Horrors. Complex layers upon layers of saturated effect pedals have fallen out of fashion in recent years, but bands like The Murder Capital and fellow noise sculptors black midi are championing their revival, replacing structureless soundscapes with dynamic stutters of chaos.  

 

Frantic compulsions of tambourine trembled from Mcgovern, accompanied by discordant harmonics and metallic bridge screeches. Then – contrasting the band’s audacious entrance – he stood silent, eyes closed; poised. His arms tucked behind his back as if beckoning judgement, letting the rare moment of contemplation speak for itself. “These are my best friends'” uttered McGovern in the stillness between songs; a heartfelt plea to the crowd that they are more than anger and masculinity. The solo bass chords and fragile delivery which followed on stripped-back ‘On Twisted Ground’ divided the audience in bewilderment and awe; yet established a fitting serenity for a song about the passing of a close friend, who tragically took his own life. Mcgovern whimpered softly into the mic, and could be seen wiping away tears.

 

‘Green & Blue’ swiftly restored momentum with the perpetual rolling toms and jagged chords reminiscent of Protomartyr and proved to be the highlight of their set. Piercing violin swells from an Ebow enshrined intertwining licks of early Interpol, before ending with a huge cascading onslaught of distortion. They then ended as they began, embracing the crowd in a frenzied moshpit for fan-favourite ‘Feeling Fades’ and acting as if nothing had occurred. The scowls returned; the veil of aggression drew the evening to a close. 

 

Yet the touching vulnerability of the show’s heart lingered, leaving the impression that a ‘Murder Capital’ set is a conscious portrayal of society’s expectations of male behaviour – burying emotional fragility deep within the pretence of toughness and confrontation. 

Photography by Jamie Macmillan.

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© Helicon Magazine 2019

University of Bristol