Music Reviews
Gigi's Recovery

The Murder Capital Gigi's Recovery

(Human Season Records) Rating - 9/10

After their 2019 debut, When I Have Fears, the Murder Capital saw how the forces of change began to break through. The Dublin quintet's more austere look into grief, relating to a friend's suicide, came together in nine months, but it must've been the equivalent of a lifetime, as frontman James McGovern poured every emotion he had to give until he couldn't. When it became time to reconvene, the band didn't exactly know how to move forward, but they knew they wanted to bring some light into that darkness. And for a hotly-tipped unit that didn't fit within the post-punk umbrella they'd inevitably been lumped into, the possibility for reinvention felt alluring.

Moving past a highly-specific concept, the central thought behind their second LP, Gigi's Recovery, began to reveal itself. Inevitably, it would be about themselves. When McGovern sings "existence fading" on the album's intro, wrapped with dissonant ambiance, he yearns for a transformation. It seamlessly transitions into Crying, a quantum leap from their debut's chilling catharsis, where the band introduces textured sample work and twitchy percussion behind McGovern's tortured yet steady baritone: “I will, I’ll wade, I’m wading for you.” It's evident their sound sharply pivots from the likes of Shame or Idles. Here, they approximate the moody experiments of Radiohead or the swaggering art-rock of the Horrors' circa Primary Colours, a more accessible path that also seduced the similarly-inclined Fontaines D.C.

McGovern—a naturally charismatic singer—musters the confidence to reach for mass pop appeal, elegantly unleashing his fury into some of the band's most forceful and expressive anthems. And while his passionate showmanship might draw comparisons to U2 or Editors in Return my Head or Only Good Things, McGovern's dramatic gothic imagery summons curiosity and not eye-rolling. While the former invites a tortured, call-and-response release, the latter—an ode to monogamy—gradually builds into a satisfying arpeggiated rocker filled with blissfully romantic sentiments: “Blindly I share with you my whole world.” Only Good Things, which comes late into the album, reads like a direct response to Ethel, a standout track with a funereal tone that resonates with grit and rusty jangle. McGovern, sounding less unsure of himself, considers leaving the bustling nightlife to settle down: “They’re all out there flying high/where are you tonight.” It's the closest we come to understanding his needs and wants as a vulnerable frontman.

Otherwise, limiting McGovern's lyrical abilities as direct does a disservice to his often impressionistic vision. He also has an incredibly adept backing band supporting him. There's something hypnotic about The Stars that Leave the Stage, one of the most inscrutable and forward-thinking cuts here, on which he establishes a calamitous tension over a spooky piano motif reminiscent of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds' From Her to Eternity. The band sounds largely more muscular and self-assured, with a terrific rhythm section to boot. Their tightness as a unit is best exemplified in The Lie Becomes the Self, allowing drummer Diarmuid Brennan and bassist Gabriel Pascal Blake to lock into a sinister groove atop subtle sonic embellishments. Mind you, guitarists Damien Tuit and Cathal Roper show great range with their dual guitar dynamics—listen to the incendiary title track for proof—but they often serve the song with restraint and finesse.

The conceptual narrative of the Murder Capital moving forward may seem like a tired trope, but it's also their truth, and when backed with songs this good, it justifies their wanting to document their growth as musicians. In distancing themselves from strictly writing within a post-punk framework, the band takes new and exciting rhythmic detours to accompany their slightly more optimistic, inward-looking reflections. Having worked on the album for over two years in remote Irish towns and countryside, their use of patience and space is more evident, the calm before hopefully stirring festival audiences. Once they close with the acoustic outro Exist, it all makes sense. “Took ownership/to stay forever in my own skin,” McGovern affirms in letter form, shedding an old existence to embrace a new one. And thus, the metamorphosis is complete.