The Murder Capital’s debut is somewhat borne of tragedy, fittingly, perhaps, for the post-punk void they inhabit. Firstly, a close friend of the band committed suicide; if that wasn’t enough, bassist Gabriel Paschal Blake’s mother passed away during the recording of When I Have Fears.
If you keep a close eye on latest news around music you’ll already be aware that a common pigeonhole for the band to be lumped into is that of Joy Division descendants. Sure, as tracks like closer Love Love Love will show with their tortured vocals and industrial background, there is a certain truth to these claims. But in turn we all know that’s a very easy and very common dumping ground for any band that remotely has any kind of a connection to Ian Curtis and his pre-New Order bandmates.
Instead, things are a little more removed from the close comparison that’s been alluded to. Whilst singer James McGovern has his Curtis moments, there’s more going on here that should be explored. Opener For Everything is a useful example; moving from eerie beginnings, the track moves on into angst-heavy frustration to momentary serene contemplation. It’s almost as if the band are weighing things up before reaching the cacophonous conclusion that “everything is for nothing”; this feeling of working things out throughout the course of a song is not the kind of distinct, clear cut bleakness attributed to a Joy Division song.
Working at London’s Assault & Battery Studio with a producer with the experience of Flood (U2, New Order, Nine Inch Nails) is also an unexpected boost for the Irish five-piece that earlier, raw post-punk bands didn’t have. This gloss polishes songs like the excellent, punky blast of Don’t Cling To Life making them sound fuller and more advanced than records from their insinuated peers, the message in this song again reflecting conflicting opinions perhaps by claiming “don’t cling to life, there’s nothing on the other side”; if this is true then wouldn’t you do just that?
In 1982 a photographer named Francesca Woodman committed suicide – another connection to the bleak reality of life and death – and Green And Blue was written after the band discovered her as the band connected with the loneliness her photos encapsulated. It’s another superb cut, and one that reflects the tribal, guttural side of the post-punk era (think Bauhaus or perhaps Siouxsie And The Banshees rather than Curtis and friends) as its six minutes provide a spellbinding moment. Feeling Fades and More Is Less then depict more of a slacker rock presence than anything else, not least because of the vocal style used this time by McGovern.
The Slowdance I and II pairing offer more alternative interest, as the funereal former hints at greatness whilst the thrilling instrumental latter delivers on that promise. How The Streets Adore Me Now, however, takes the funereal element even further as a haunting piano melody runs alongside regretful lyrics of “I knew I should have stayed that day”, conjuring visions of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds or even, due to McGovern’s deeper vocal tones employed, Tindersticks.
So, don’t listen to the lazy, stereotypical comparisons, listen instead to the album itself. Although, in their own words, When I Have Fears is “about a fear of life” and “not being able to finish everything you wanted to” – fairly similar themes to much of what post-punk tackles – it’s not simply an album that will leave you resonating with morbid thoughts or feeling a connection with the mundane inevitability of all things life related. Instead, it’s a collection that will make you think for yourself and one that will keep on giving for a considerable time.