It’s there in the shadows; in the back of our (their?) minds. A not quite tangible feeling of foreboding. A panoramic, filmic shot of granite and ghosts and gloomy clouds gathering over a city which is grappling with its identity. Cut to five men; five intense looking young snooker hall outcasts, standing atop a 70s car park like an Irish version of a scene from Get Carter.
Welcome to The Murder Capital.
It is of course handy for all us, that Dublin is on people’s lips again (in the main, due to the success of Fontaines DC); it makes TMC easier to ‘sell’. But – and there’s always a but – aside from timing and geography, TMC are, to me at least, less tethered to their home.
They remind me of the gritty English north of the early ‘80s (its only just struck me again how their second single ‘Green & Blue’ reminds me of early New Model Army, while other tracks here have an almost primal Yorkshire Gothic feel (if you wanted to go even further, then you could almost stretch the atmosphere of this record as far as Joy Division).
So, to make this absolutely clear, they are NOT, the ‘new’ Fontaines DC (despite having a similar gang mentality and ear for poetry). But their debut album ‘When I Have Fears’ IS a great record. It’s a big record. It’s a record that grapples with such a range of reflections that it feels like a lifetime of emotions being putting on trial in court. It’s as if they are, in evidence, pleading for some kind of resolution; some cathartic answer to the shit they’ve been through and attempted to make sense of.
Rock bands often try this, but (ha! Another BUT), they can’t lay themselves bare enough to be believable. They want you to like them too much at the end. They want you to feel sorry for them. The poor, insecure darlings.
TMC don’t care what you think about them in this context. In some ways, this brings them closer to Idles if anything, or bands who want you to see the gnarly, honest subtext which has made them who they are (Singer James McGoven has a similar mantra writing style to first LP Joe Talbot: see the beautifully stark ‘On Twisted Ground’ and ‘Feeling Fades’ for evidence).
There is a distinct feeling here as well that we are all – at various times, and more often than we care to confess – close to the edge; close to a personal abyss.
Again, its only on listening to this record for a third or fourth time, that Mcgoven sounds like an ‘inner voice’; a voice you knew was there but could never properly make out.
I’ve always said that my favourite lyricists have found words for feelings I’ve felt, but could never vocalise, never put into words. McGoven on this LP joins Talbot, Will Car Seat, the sometimes unfairly maligned Frank Turner and a small bunch of others in being able to do this.
MEANWHILE: ‘When I Have Fears’ takes you through a succession of musical detours; this is not one of those SATNAV albums which follows the easiest route. Its 10 tracks veer through post punk, Clog Rock and even a fractured Nick Cave, arriving at the excellent ‘Love Love Love’ which – and I don’t say this lightly – is such a good song about how emotionally inadequate we all are at times, that, for a second, I thought I might have to put myself into therapy.
It’s there. In the shadows; in the back of your head: When you have fears….