On the follow-up to When I Have Fears, the pitfalls, the purity and the piousness of recovery make the case that to survive, we have to grow
Get out your discords and reckless abandon, backcomb your hair and plunge into the velvet night in search of your one-true-love Nick Cave! Because The Murder Capital are back, for the first time since the fireworks of their triumphant 2019 album When I Have Fears. In 2019, Ireland’s The Murder Capital were everywhere. With five star reviews and a sell-out tour, they could do no wrong. They were made of fireworks. But fireworks are destined to burn bright, fast, and out – the scent of smoke lingering in the air they left behind them. And what happens once the show is over?
The band version of this, at least, is where the John Congleton-produced Gigi’s Recovery comes in, an album of the ‘after’. The consequences in the bright light after the last line is taken, the final bottle uncorked, the final argument finished. Because we don’t just fade away once we’ve decided to be better, do we? Most of us analyse our behaviour; how did we end up lost in excess? Some of us hide, claustrophobic, we cannot take that we acted this way and end up running, running, running from the truth.
Gigi’s Recovery then, for the band at least, navigates the level of sterile hostility needed to really process recovery. The stark white shard of honesty. To survive, we have to grow – and with Gigi’s Recovery the flash in the pan of 2019 could not be further away.
Let’s begin with another harsh truth. It’s a grower. On first listen, you’d be forgiven for thinking Gigi’s Recovery lacks the saviour faire of When I Have Fears, as it is an all the more tender and mature record. But that’s the thing, you need to listen to it three times. Recovery isn’t showy, and neither is Gigi’s Recovery. It’s consistent, multi-layered, lush and complex – just like this album.
Bookended with two tracks called Existence and Exist, we establish our mantra, one that weaves its way through the entire album. Pushed into Crying, a Radiohead twinged only-slightly hi-hat out of time languishing prayer, that sounds like heartstrings breaking, an electronic surrealism that marries eerie synths to the ultimate confession “I await my fate” and the lies of “I’m asking for a friend, I’m trying”. Then “I had to realise, to begin, to survive,” and we’re off on our journey with Return My Head, thunderous guitars and frantic drumming echoes, an on the nose hymn to personal surrender.
Next, the prospect of ‘what if’ arises, in the form of the single best track on the album, a slowly escalating ballad Ethel. It’s a Leonard Cohen-drenched modernisation, Ziggy Stardust rock music with a literal heartbeat pulse running through it that builds into a tapestry of art-music by the end. And – once you get past the minor hilarity of a child being called Ethel – it escalates into literal heartbreak: “Where are your friends now? They’re all fucking high high high”, “Where are you tonight?”, “I always wanted it to be like this for us, having our first kid, naming her Ethel”.
The Stars Will Leave Their Stage blooms with ’80s vocals and synths. Belonging is an esoteric prayer, a stark thank you centring vocals to all those friends that stuck by during said recovery. Only Good Things bounces, repetitive beats hailing the new perspective: “Only good things, only good things how beautiful,” the haze then of chaos, suddenly pulling back in the light of sobriety. Gigi’s Recovery is the last track before the bookended Exist. It’s a shoegaze classic, layers upon layers of icing, a great guitar track saluting hallelujah to those that stuck by us as we sobered up. Gigi. You never left me and I am, so, so, so grateful.
Is this a grown up Murder Capital, matured and ready to love again, clean and empowered to seize the day? The thing is, same, aren’t we all? If you need a soundtrack to your 90 in 90, this is it. The pitfalls, the purity, the piousness of recovery. Just promise you’ll listen to it at least three times. It’s worth it.