Album Review: The Murder Capital - 'When I Have Fears'


Album of the year.

The Murder Capital are a very special band. They see a romance in the darkness, use both the beauty and the beast in order to create songs that have a powerful impact on any listener and will stand the test of time. There is a tenderness in their music and a violence – the lyrics are poetic and insightful, whilst the band attack their instruments with emotion. In doing so, they explore human emotion and the vulnerability it creates in its most raw form. This is what you get with the Murder Capital’s perfect debut – ‘When I Have Fears’.

Named after the Keats poem, ‘When I have Fears’, The Murder Capital take no prisoners in their journey. And that is what this is – it’s a journey. The album begins with ‘For Everything’. It’s a menacing and solid opener that will cause anyone to become overwhelmed by the pure energy and emotion The Murder Capital bring. The drums are thunderous and the bass rumbles like the calm before the storm. The guitars play high tremelo-picked riffs and sliding low note riffs, whilst James McGovern howls his brilliant poetry. It’s a huge opening comparable to IDLES’ ‘Colossus’. This is an intense track, and it’s only the start.

‘When I Have Fears’ is surrounded by death, but The Murder Capital aren’t negative. They accept the grief and vulnerability that comes with it. Consider it a counterpart to ‘Skeleton Tree’. The first of these tracks is ‘Green and Blue’. This is a haunting epic that was written after discovering the work of photographer Francesca Woodman who took her own life at the age of twenty-two. It’s rhythm and mood is like ‘The Lotts’, but The Murder Capital take that feeling up a notch. The song is dynamic, as though you are floating on waves that come in all different levels of intensity. This most beautiful, haunting and poignant part is the line “I felt you” sang alongside an ominous E-Bow guitar line. 

Despite it’s more energetic feel, ‘Don’t Cling to Life’ was written following the death of one of the members mother. This is another example of where The Murder Capital use grief in a way to celebrate life, as they wanted to write “a song to feel grief yet dance to”. And they nailed it. Furthermore, the band had to grieve over the suicide of a close friend. Again, The Murder Capital don’t shy away, but create a beautiful ode or eulogy in the form of ‘On Twisted Ground’ made up of just vocals and guitars. The band go for this approach again in ‘How the Streets Adore Me Now’. don’t be fooled by The Smiths-esque title, this is another hauntingly beautiful track. McGovern sings in baritone accompanied by a piano, and it sounds like Tom Waits more poetic ballads without the gravelly voice. 

The Murder Capital are essentially a post-punk band, and When I Have Fears does have a couple of pure punk rock pieces. ‘More is Less’ is the first song they wrote that “had lasting power”. And they were right. Opening lines “If I gave you what you wanted you’d never be full/That’s the trappings of your boyish mind/Become unshakeable” are just infectious and the band go full throttle here. First single ‘Feeling Fades’ is similar. It starts where ‘More is Less’ in its attitude but the band begin to explore and experiment more. You can see it bridges the gap between ‘More is Less’ and ‘Green and Blue’. And if the barking “la’s” in the outro don’t get you fired up, nothing will.

The Murder Capital could be the Joy Division of the 21st century, and in ‘Slowdance I’ it would be hard to disagree. Think ‘I Remember Nothing’, as it opens with whale song type noises and the band play an atmosphere rather than a song. ‘Slowdance II’ is an instrumental that follows part one and ends on a solo violin that is the most poignant sound I’ve ever heard. ‘Love Love Love’ closes the album with its tormented siren-like guitar leads. It’s a big song and the perfect piece to end a perfect album.

When I Have Fears takes on the darkness and the light and all the colours between. There are good individual tracks, but it is best listened to and appreciated from start to finish. That is when you hear the magic. The perfect way to sum up what The Murder Capital and When I Have Fears is about lies in a lyric in ‘How the Streets Adore Me Now’: “My love, my light, my darkness”.

Words by Matthew Brocklehurst