The Murder Capital at Rough Trade

After the critical success of their first album. The Murder Capital return with their new album, ‘Gigi’s Recovery’. It is the perfect example of the difficulty of producing a second album that balances expectations with artistic development. Their first, a 21st century classic, an emotional rollercoaster of post-punk reflection setup a question of how could they follow it up. I think most of expected more of the same. An album that builds a sound for the larger venues but potentially loses its heart. Instead, they sprung a surprise on everyone. This album is all heart.

With ‘Gigi’s Recovery’, the band have to be applauded for moving beyond their post-punk origins and building upon the most emotional moments of the first. The emotional darkness is still there, but we have moved from a dark neon filled club, to a smoky hotel lounge, with songs with richer textures replacing the direct guitar riffs of the first. James pouring as much emotion as he can muster in to every song. You could easily imagine James sitting at a piano with a scotch singing these songs at midnight. This is an album of a band who have grown up.

Changing the sound so radically at this stage almost without warning, might be the right thing for the band, but it has surprised many of us. Ultimately, a band should produce music for themselves, not the audience. And this new album is full of interesting ideas and sounds. At times it is heart achingly beautiful. Sadly, for me, it is often a bit one paced. Emotional song after emotional song. They are no changes of pace like the first album. Yes, it is a beautiful album. But it will not be one of my favourite albums at the end of the year. The songs simply are not something I will want to put on time and time again. Of course, live, the songs could prove to be a different beast when they nestle in-between their other songs.

Before Christmas, I was lucky enough to catch the band play a stripped back set of many of these new songs. Tonight, at Rough Trade, while this was a full-band set, it was still stripped back. I think this is the right way to introduce people to their new sound. I know I was ready for the shock of their new sound and willing to give it the album listen and not close my ears to it.

Just like before Christmas, James turned up looking like an extra from the Professionals. The band looked refreshed and clearly enjoying playing the new material acoustically, and dare I say it, looking proud of their new album. That is always a good sign.

The stripped-back nature of the set shifts most of the attention to James. His vocals have to therefore hold up to the scrutiny. In most part he succeeds. While he doesn’t have the biggest vocal range, he has the stage presence and enough range to pour out what feel like raw emotions. Who knew there was a crooner inside him waiting for the opportunity to perform.

I was surprised to find all the songs worked live. I expected the set to drag at points. However, the addition of a few songs from the first album helped lift the set when it was in danger of getting bogged down. Yes, these song work live. At least here in a smaller venue. How well they will work with a drunk rowdy crowd at a big venue, only time will tell