WHEN THE MURDER CAPITAL’S debut album ‘When I Have Fears’ dropped, it quickly bolstered an already growing reputation: one for stark, brittle, slightly miserable art punk that ruminates abstractly on Dublin’s – and their own – problems. It’s a distinctly local album referencing Yeats and nodding to The Liberties and Dublin music college BIMM, but also dealing in existentialism and brutalism.
The Murder Capital have not been slow burners. Despite a relative dearth of material in the build up to this debut, their wafer-thin diet of sparse, angsty singles has fuelled hype not dissimilar to vaunted neighbours Fontaines D.C. They’ve appeared in NME and The Guardian, and in an unusual twist, found the hype to be slightly nauseating.
“I wish someone would come out and criticise us,” guitarist Cathal Roper tells me when I mention the hype. “It feels weird to have people talk about us like this. We don’t make the kind of music you’d expect everyone to like.”
It’s true: the shouting and tangled guitars that characterise the band – references, they say, to poetry and fearful philosophy as much as musical touch points – are not exactly straightforward or easy to suck in. They’ve taken a stab at Dublin’s housing situation, and ruminated on their own existence. It’s poignant, and somewhat abstract.
“It’s not a pop album,” Roper says of the release. “It’s mainly recorded live. We wanted to capture that energy. We are a live band above all, and when it came to making a record we wanted to give a sense of that energy.”
“We put a lot of thought into how we put this album together. It’s a kind of narrative, but also a feel thing.” There’s a real contrast that leaps out in the flow of the album, with fluctuating moments of loud and quiet, an enticing sense of tone.
“It’s not really political,” Roper says of the album, which is odd, because it could easily be portrayed as such. “It’s about our experiences. We learnt a lot at BIMM, but there’s a lot you can’t learn until you get out there playing, too. You never really learn how to go on tour, how to resist the temptations and how to function when you’re out there, not until you do it.”
Even the name is forged from dark corners: one of lead singer James McGovern’s closest friends died by suicide, and the band and their content are one of the ways he deals with the grief. They’re named for that role. There are some things, though, that feel like they should remain unexplained, at least in this particular little nook of explosive Irish rock.
You get the sense that The Murder Capital would rather let their music speak for itself, too, preferring not to give away too much. There’s a reluctance to ‘explain’ things that jumps out throughout our time talking: Roper is clearly more comfortable calling out the press on their fawning over his own band than he is talking about what it is, exactly, that they represent, or what they’re trying to do. He shows no hesitation in calling out interpretations or rejecting themes I’ve read into his music.
And why not. The Murder Capital have stoked the status of ‘enigma’, and even with the long-awaited release of their debut, there’s a sense that they’ll continue to deliver their barrage of cutting riffs on stage and pass relatively little comment about why. There doesn’t need to be a why, after all. The abstract assault of their stark, memorable poetry offers more than enough to chow down on.