In a recent interview about their new album, The Murder Capital’s lead singer James McGovern said that “to make a record that sounded anything like [the first album] would have been wild to us”. Well, mission accomplished as the resulting record, Gigi’s Recovery, brings the band into new sonic territory albeit with some scattered results.
Debut When I Have Fears ended with the monotonous menace of ‘Love, Love, Love’, a track that found McGovern saying goodbye to romance and love as it lay “in the rain”, before it faded away with distorted guitar echoes and the mournful plucking of a single note.
When ‘Only Good Things’, the lead single from the new album, was released back in July, McGovern described it as “an exciting evolution” of the band’s sound and it’s certainly a departure from their previous album’s closer. It starts with a looping guitar riff before the shuffling drums kick in and, other than a few moments where the melody doesn’t go exactly where you think it will, it might be the most straightforward Murder Capital song we’ve heard so far. That’s not a bad thing by any means, it’s a great tune.
‘Return My Head’ is, barring a few dissonant buzzes and whirs, pretty much a pop punk song. ‘Ethel’ finds McGovern singing to someone, possibly a lover, about the crossroads they find themselves at. Will they continue to be “strung out on love/alive in the city” or settle down to “having our first kid” and “name her Ethel”? There’s a new hopefulness to many of these songs, but the record really shines when things get a bit moodier.
‘The Stars Will Leave Their Stage’ is the album highlight, and wouldn’t sound out of place on a Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross film score. The instrumental somehow manages to be bright and menacing at the same time; McGovern’s vocal rumbles and then soars. ‘A Thousand Lives’ finds the band in Kid A territory, swapping fuzzy guitars and bass for Diarmuid Brennan’s breakbeat drums and some synthy organs. You’d be forgiven for expecting Thom Yorke’s falsetto to enter the mix, but McGovern’s baritone sounds exceptionally good over this kind of soundscape.
So, what doesn’t quite work about Gigi’s Recovery?
The Murder Capital’s greatest strength is also sometimes a weakness; they do everything with such intense sincerity that you might find yourself crying out for a crumb of the type of irony or humour that you’ll find in the work of Dublin peers like Silverbacks or Gilla Band. Gigi’s Recovery also never quite becomes more than the sum of its parts. Individual tracks shine but the record doesn’t feel like a lucid piece of work from start to finish in the same way that When I Have Fears did.
Instead, Gigi’s Recovery feels more like a collection of musical sketches that serves to progress The Murder Capital’s sound into new territory.