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The Murder Capital combine disparate elements into excellence on Gigi's Recovery

"Gigi's Recovery"

Release date: 20 January 2023
The Murder Capital - Gigi's Recovery cover
18 January 2023, 00:00 Written by Ross Horton

It’s no coincidence, and certainly no surprise, that The Murder Capital frontman James McGovern’s favourite yellow shirt features Iggy Pop’s beaming mug from the cover of Lust for Life, because that’s exactly what The Murder Capital have come to represent – an overwhelming urge to celebrate life in spite of all the pain.

If you let the music do the talking, you’d have found their 2019 hype-stirring debut album When I Have Fears to be an incredibly structured and impeccably crafted body of work that was packed with originality. Its highlights were many and its delivery heartfelt enough to truly convey an emotional heft that is often missing from even the most sincere artists’ albums. Put simply, there was nobody doing what The Murder Capital did.

That said, their new album, Gigi’s Recovery, is such a leap in songwriting and execution that it might as well not be the same band behind it. Where the first was terse and unwieldy, this one is open – even joyous despite its heavy subject matter.

The album is bookended by two short, potent ruminations on the notion of a fading existence, letting you know immediately what you're in for over the course of the record.

The album begins in earnest with “Crying”, where a spiralling, muscular rhythm meets McGovern's powerful vocal head-on. It's a tension the band explore throughout the album – unafraid to let McGovern carry a heavy burden, like the singers that inspire him, from Iggy and Jim Morrison to Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave. Just listen to what he does with the space on “The Lie Becomes The Self”. He completely owns it, occupies it, and imprints his rich, resplendent tones on what might be one of the lesser tracks in the hands of a lesser singer.

“Return My Head” is simpler in structure, and a return to the sound they cultivated so beautifully on the first album, and the title track offers the same visceral pleasures refracted through a stained-glass window.

The album's beating heart, “Ethel”, grows from a relatively staid beginning into a monumental crescendo of emotional drama. Its sonic makeup lies somewhere between David Bowie circa Scary Monsters and Iggy Pop’s “China Girl” – a kind of fraught, frayed, devastating art rock that uses heartbreak as a tool to inflict the most severe experience on the listener.

However, the song that most embodies the true spirit of the record is “We Had to Disappear”, which seems to shift at will before your keen ears. It's intense, and overwhelming, and powerful in the sense that it has a lot of classic rockisms – but it's also playful in its darkness.

The track that shows how far they've developed as a band is “Only Good Things”, which takes them very, very close to the sound of classic Tears For Fears, with its rolling rhythm and yearning vocal inflection. It's a wonderful tune, and offers a clue as to where they might be going next.

To combine so many seemingly disparate elements into one cohesive whole is impressive, but to do so having successfully navigated the pitfalls of hype, and of endless comparison, is tantamount to excellence. Gigi's Recovery is an excellent record, and The Murder Capital have laid the first real claim to Album of the Year.

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