“Alive in the city” The Murder Capital, Reborn on second album Gigi’s Recovery

Dublin post-punk outfit evolve gracefully on their second full-length release, offering passion and introspection.

Photos: James Kelly | Words: Joshua Tubb

Gigi’s Recovery is an entirely different space, a completely new atmosphere to what came before. This second full-length from The Murder Capital was released today via their own label Human Season. It builds upon their existing sound, showing maturation and critical reflection. Organised by the opening and closing tracks ’Existence’ and ‘Exist’, the album is by no means orderly.

The band is made up of James McGovern (vocals), Damien Tuit (guitar), Cathal Roper (guitar), Gabriel Pascal Blake (bass) and Diarmuid Brennan (drums). Formed in Dublin in 2018, the post-punk band have been celebrated alongside contemporaries such as Idles, Shame, and fellow Irish band Fontaines D.C..

Their acclaimed 2019 debut – When I Have Fears – was written and recorded within the first 9 months of the group meeting. Its urgent genesis showed through on the recordings, complimented by lyrics exploring themes of existential unease. I had the fortune of catching the group at last year’s Mutations Festival and was blown away by the new material that forms Gigi’s Recovery. A chat with the guys afterwards gave the impression of a band ready to show the best of what they can do… who can also do fantastic Simpsons impressions.

It has been quite some time since the initial debut, with a whole 3 years between releases. The time spent honing this album is felt in its evolution of the band’s sound. Lyrically, the songs seem to navigate personal experiences and relationships as coloured by this period of pandemic, political turmoil and depersonalisation.

The Murder Capital’s innate ability to build tension and release it in massive bursts shines on the record, though it makes a slower and more tender start. Through opener ’Existence’ tension builds continuing to the middle of the second track, ‘Crying’. Here, the façade finally breaks down with lashes of thick distorted guitars that swirl over crooned lyrics. Recent single ’Return to My Head’ is more immediate. Its suitably carpe diem chorus speaks of McGovern’s desire to be back on stage in a post-Covid world.  His words are accompanied by looping major key riffs and expansive rhythmic sections, which illustrate the ambition of this more considered sophomore album.

The most powerful section of the record is delivered across the double hits of ‘Ethel’ and ‘The Stars Will Leave Their Stage’. ‘Ethel’ is a crushing song about failure and expectations, musically affronting us with a crossroads of sound and thought. Its floating opening gives way to a darker place of longing for a past now lost. This is anchored by the shift in the lyrics, with what the speaker “always wanted it to be like this for us”. It changes from being “Strung out on love/ Alive in the city” to “Having our first kid/Nam[ing] her Ethel”. The song is uneasy and ambiguous, leaving it to the listener to project their feelings into the gaps.

‘The Stars Will Leave Their Stage’ starts with a clunky industrial-style synth with the effect of a cheap inbuilt electronic speaker. A slower drum pattern offsets it, hammering into this ambience. McGovern’s vocal talent bursts centre stage on the line, “just like ships in the night, promising to collide”. This moment is then swept into a building crescendo with mutated and squealing guitars, feeling like wrought iron in a vice being pulled thinner and thinner. Just as quickly as it is built it gets taken away and replaced with a breath of space and contemplation on the next track ‘Belonging’.

‘A Thousand Lives’ utilises a new approach to instrumentation from the group. Bringing breakbeat drums and swelling organ synths in the background, the influences of Aphex Twin and Kid A show through. This new sonic palatte gives room for lyrics to sit front and centre, weighing upon the listener’s mind.

 ‘Only Good Things’ feels in many ways like the defining track of the album. It embodies desire in its purest form—the yearning for decency and clarity. The sound is cinematic, with the music taking on a dramatic richness backing truly stunning lyrics. It is a sun-drenched testament to the evolution of this group.

Gigi’s Recovery is an excellent and highly polished new offering from The Murder Capital fitting into the ever-growing canon of 21st Century post-punk classics. It is haunting but tender, wide but skinny, A cathedral made of ice, proud in its existence, yet never permanent.