7th October | Exchange
Photos: Jess Greenwood
Every now and then, a band comes along that everyone tells you that you must go and see. Right now, The Murder Capital are that band.
The Irish post-punk band are relative newcomers. They formed in 2015, but only released their debut single this year and they couldn’t have picked a better time to do so. Bands like IDLES, Shame and Fontaines D.C. have helped kick the doors to the mainstream wide open again for punk and post-punk and so it’s no surprise that this sold-out show at Exchange is the hottest ticket in Bristol tonight.
There is a real sense of excitement in the room before the band take to the stage: that formidable sort of anticipation that comes with seeing a ‘next big thing’. From their entrance, the band appear to be conscious of this. It is a controlled yet intense opening: glaring red lights, a loud, drawn-out intro to opener ‘More Is Less’, unflinching eyeballing and gurning from band members.
Then there’s frontman, James McGovern. He appears with his back to the audience before slowly making his way centre stage to the mic stand. McGovern is a great presence; immaculately dressed in a suit, he stares lingeringly and directly at what feels like each audience member as if preparing for battle with them.
What follows is an exercise in restraint, slowly building to chaos. Whereas some of the aforementioned bands of the genre may come out all guns blazing to crowd surfing and circle pits from the opening chords, The Murder Capital play things differently. It’s slow-paced and measured but simmering with energy ready to boil over at any second.
The group’s debut LP, When I Have Fears, has only been out for six weeks and so the capacity crowd aren’t quite ready to sing along with every word yet. Instead, we get lost in the intensity; there’s an unusually concentrated quiet from the crowd. There is more to post-punk and to The Murder Capital than rowdy pits; the audience are transfixed and listening intently to each lyric. The melodic darkness of these songs, coupled with the singer’s intensity, are unquestionably reminiscent of Ian Curtis and Joy Division.
Break-out single, ‘Don’t Cling To Life’ is second up tonight. It’s a gothic indie disco track, more danceable live than on record. It’s bigger than the room and ready to fill the larger venues and festival tents that the band are destined to play next year.
The magnificent pairing of ‘Slowdance I’ and ‘Slowdance II’ is an opportunity for the band to showcase how important the instrumentation is in their music; this is really where they differ from their contemporaries. The guitars build an atmospheric wall of sound, creating something more like the giant 80s goth bands than the post-punk bands of today.
A sincere, impassioned ‘On Twisted Ground’ is greeted by appreciative stillness; it’s hard to imagine a sold-out crowd allowing this kind of hush at a Slaves or an Idles show. It’s a grand and glorious moment which concludes with McGovern seemingly breaking down on stage.
The control held by both band and audience for the first 35 minutes is joyously discarded for the final three songs. The band have expertly conducted the crowd towards this moment and, right on cue, the pits begin and the show can end in the type of chaos associated with the genre. McGovern dives into the audience for the ‘Feeling Fades’ finale and the hordes crowd around him for the hero’s send-off that he has earned.
It is an absolute pleasure to see this great new band in a room much smaller than they are likely to play again for some time.
See the video for ‘Don’t Cling To Life’ here: