Tuesday 17 January 2023

The Murder Capital - Gigi's Recovery

When James McGovern declared “The evolution will not be compromised” in an interview ahead of the release of second album Gigi’s Recovery it raised a few eyebrows in some quarters. Alas, any fears the band may have lost their way can be immediately quashed with their brand new offering Gigi's Recovery. The follow up succeeds the pain and grief from their dark and abrasive debut, When I Have Fears, with a kaleidoscope of colour and melody whilst still retaining that intensity, honesty and beauty of the debut record.

It would have been easy for the band to fall apart after a tumultuous few years that followed the release of their critically acclaimed UK Top 20 debut album. Rave reviews of the record and their mesmerising live show confirmed them as one of the hottest bands on the planet. A relentless touring schedule led them to their first American tour yet the juggernaut that was threatening to take over the world was cruelly stopped in its tracks when COVID put pay to their dreams after just two dates.

The band could have been forgiven for thinking everyone and everything was against them but instead they went home to regroup and to recover. The quintet’s retreat found them returning to a normal state of health and mind. Each members inner strength combined collectively to make their bond tighter than ever. While from the outside it seemed their destiny was being dictated by unavoidable outside forces of nature the band found themselves shaping their own futures both creatively and as individuals. Significantly, they had managed to regain possession and control of something that had appeared to have been stolen or lost from them.         

With Gigi’s Recovery time has proven to be a great healer. It has enabled the band to evolve organically and they appear to have shifted seamlessly from themes of death and grief to life and the joy it can offer too. Bookended with the songs Existence and Exist it is a loose concept album following a journey from surviving to living. There are ever evolving expansive landscapes  laden with texture and atmosphere on the long player that illuminate the listener over forty five minutes.

“Strange feeling I’m dealing with, I can’t admit it, I lose my grip” are the first words you hear from James’ mouth on the sixty five second opening track of the hugely anticipated sophomore album. A maudlin, pensive number of vulnerability sung over synths it oozes and bubbles threatening to unleash something far more potent and magical. “Existence fading, existence, exist” he muses. A story of continued survival and objective reality.

The opening track seamlessly transitions into the wonderful Crying and although the title suggests a monochrome downbeat offering it’s actually full of colour enhanced by synth drenched textured effects, pedals and juddering guitars. Led by Diarmuid’s rolling drums and Gabriel’s pulsating, yet subtle, bass line the rhythm section is as tight as ever and accompanied by the double pronged attack of Cathal and Damien’s piercing, squalling, swirling guitars the listener is agitated and sent on a psychedelic trip while James unleashes an impressive vocal range. Against the backdrop of a heavy sweltering sound he at first holds back remaining composed and asking “I’m crying, is this our end?” before the song veers into another direction soaked in feedback with a cacophony of noise before crashing, burning and coming to a shuddering halt. 

For the doubters who may question the opening two tracks they need to go no further than the next two – Return My Head and Ethel – to realise the band are back bigger and better than ever. A band confident in their own ability to continue making their own music on their own terms.

Return My Head will be a guaranteed mosh pit favourite showcasing a band who clearly still have it in them to create the beautiful chaos that many of their songs cause when performed live. It gives you that short, sharp, shock treatment as the song builds more fervour with each and every passing chorus. Its cyclonic effect of unorganised destruction that needs “To realign. To begin, to survive” and take control of your own destiny again. You can sense the song is born from frustration be it wanting to be back on that stage that they clearly own or revisiting places as individuals where emotionally and spiritually they feel connected. 

James’ imposing baritone comes to the fore in the equally entrancing Ethel. It sounds like Frank Sinatra meeting Radiohead head on in a bar in the early hours of the morning. A song about being at a crossroads in your life and deciding which path to take. A battle between heart and mind and being true to yourself and about forging a brighter future. It’s a slow burner that builds up into a crescendo of weird and wonderful sonics courtesy of loops and richer sounds emanating from Cathal’s and Damien’s guitars of choice. When the song really gets going it’s explosive and piercing. Seemingly chaotic and spiralling out of control before the restoration of calm, order and direction as James sternly tells us “You better get it right, one chance in this life”.    

There’s an enduring quality to The Stars Will Leave Their Stage. A busy song with big arrangements where you find yourself seduced by the silky smooth voice of a brooding McGovern. Intricate sounds take you down rabbit holes that were once dark and gloomy yet now they take you into a world of light, shade and beauty. At times you can feel the song reaching boiling point before simmering again. The ebbs and flows of the song ensure your attention is unwavering throughout which is a good thing as it means you won’t miss any of the intricacies in sound. My advice would be to listen to this song, this album, with headphones on to appreciate the nuances for what they are.   

In stark contrast Belonging is a haunting, melancholic affair. Against an eerie backdrop of effects there’s a story to be told. A heart rending, gut wrenching, wistful ballad of love and the affinity for that person, situation or place. It comes as no surprise that even the quieter parts of this record hit you where it hurts most.

The standout track for me is The Lie Becomes The Self. With open, honest and frank lyrics the song teeters on the brink from start to finish. A fascinating tune that brings the quintet together in sweet harmony. Tighter than ever, looser than ever, the music contracts and expands in equal measures. The mix of electric and acoustic guitars working in tandem provide some comfort as the unmistakable bass of Gabe and Diarmuid’s prolific drumming dictate the pace. A troubled James exclaiming “Fuck standing in front of the mirror, A clown's reflection and I’m revealed” before reminding himself, and us, “Don’t get it twisted”. Never shying from the truth as he heartfeltly asks “What is it all about if I can’t hear your laugh, if I can’t hear you”. The power of music to be so emotive at its very best.

Shuffling beats, swirling synths and effects laden guitars create a carnival of light and raucous noise on A Thousand Lives. An expansive sound matched lyrically adding textures and layers to a blank canvas and filling the landscape richly with brightness and positivity. This is a band at their most imaginative and creative best matched by the poetic genius of James McGovern as he declares “Crystals forming on your cheeks my love, A thousand lives with you and I won’t be enough”. The Murder Capital have always wore their hearts on their sleeves, unafraid to discuss feelings and emotions. This is a song you write when you find true love.

The funky We Had To Disappear tugs at the heartstrings even further. Building up in intensification, new heights and sounds are realised. Elevating to a summit that may have been beyond them previously the band have excelled. Working with producer John Congleton (Sharon Van Etten, Death Cab For Cutie to name but a few) has clearly paid off. The trust, attraction and admiration between band and producer is palpable throughout the whole album but never more so than on this song.

It seems a lifetime ago since we first heard the opening single off the new album - Only Good Things. It now sounds better than ever and it all makes sense in the context and positioning on the record. The pain and grief of the first album can never be forgotten but to pave your way forward you have to take the natural step of channelling your thoughts into a better place. The song illuminates you from the off. “Show me good things, only good things” demands James. The vibrancy and upbeat nature of the album is matched by its positivity. You can sense the weight of expectation, guilt and fear lifted from their shoulders. Dark clouds replaced by beautiful blue skies and flower gardens in full bloom. It’s clearly their most radio friendly song with stripped back, chiming, jangly guitars that are awash with delicious hooks and a soaring melody. How beautiful.

The slow burn burns longer and title track Gigi’s Recovery hits the spot  building up to a climatic ending with an emotional wall of sound. Over six minutes long yet the time flies by as you’re totally consumed and in awe of James’ vocal range hitting the low notes like never before (those Camel Blues have a lot to answer for) whilst Gabe’s bass goes even lower. Damien and Cathal, exquisite as ever, continue to push the buttons and tease the pedals before coaxing Diarmuid into one last assault of the skins. A song of reflection and relief and how despite everything they’ve made it to the other side and to a brighter place. Standing tall and proud, defiant as ever, James is quick to point out that despite everything “Gigi, you never left me”.  

This musically uplifting and deeply personal journey from opener Existence to final track Exist has showcased a true test for the mind, body and soul for all those involved. Despite it’s sombre ending there’s cause for celebration. James powerfully declares on Exist “This morning took ownership, To stay forever in my own skin” and you can feel the relief and the raw emotion. There’s no doubting they’ve put everything into this record and have left nothing behind.

Some may be disappointed to hear that this masterpiece was never going to be When I Have Fears Part 2 and I, for one am grateful for that. While the scintillating debut helped many of us that had experienced grief and pain (including the band) we all knew deep down that we had to learn to live again. Gigi’s Recovery is a pathway to that healing process. 

The Murder Capital have survived, excelled and prospered where many others wouldn’t. They have kept believing in what they are doing, refusing to conform and with a trusted producer and loyal family and friends they have created arguably the most important album of 2023. The evolution has most definitely not been compromised and world domination feels like it’s just around the corner.

The Murder Capital's official site can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.

To support the album release they have a series of in-store and out-store performances at Cork Crane Lane Theatre (January 19), Dublin Tower Records (20), Dublin Workman's Club (20), Kingston Pryzm (21), Southampton Vinilo (22, 12pm), Brighton Resident Records (22, 6.30pm), London Rough Trade East (23), Manchester Piccadilly Records (24, 1pm), Leeds Crash Records (24, 5pm) and Nottingham Rough Trade (25)

They tour in February at Antwerp Trix Club (February 4), Cologne Luxor (5), Hamburg Molotow (6), Berlin Lido (8), Munich Hansa 39 (9), Strasbourg La Laiterie (11), Paris Le Trabendo (13), Amsterdam Paradiso (14), Manchester Albert Hall (16), Glasgow SWG3 (18), Leeds Stylus (20), Birmingham The Mill (21), London O2 Kentish Town Forum (23), Bristol The Marble Factory (24) and Dublin Vicar Street (26) before heading to the US and Canada in March and April.


Follow Even The Stars on Twitter at @eventhestarsuk and like our Facebook page for all the latest updates

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