Another early 2020 trip down to SWX for me, this time to see The Murder Capital, a band I'd just missed on their last go-round, moving too slow before their Exchange gig sold out... Following the likes of Spectres, Autobahn, Idles and more obviously 2019's much-hyped rock press darlings Fontaines DC (whom I like fine, but find the vocalist somewhat off-key and jarring, and for whom I gave up my Oxford O2 ticket to my friend Andy, as that gig fell one day after a knackered return from Boston in November!), this Irish post-punk band of gentlemen ruffians take their sonic cue from the likes of Killing Joke, The Fall and The Birthday Party with a bruising, viscerally dark, claustrophobic yet intriguing sound, encapsulated in an impressive debut album, last year's "When I Have Fears". It's a bleak, uncompromising vision, but, let's face it, with a name like "The Murder Capital", this lot are hardly likely to cover "Shiny Happy People", are they? So, prime proponents of the type of aggressive post-punk I'm increasingly referring to as "Arthur Shelby Rock" (as it all invariably sounds like it should be sound-tracking a scene from "Peaky Blinders", where the Shelby's attack dog gives someone a fucking good kicking down a darkened alleyway), I was curious to see how this worked "live"; a set to be enjoyed, or endured?
Equally curious was old school and recent Facebook friend Keith, along with the aforementioned Andy, so we left early, queueing to get onto the M4 but then enjoying a swift drive down catching up. Pitched up midway through opener Unorthodox Coolock, an Irish poet-raconteur whose social commentary was worthy if a little hectoring, so we stayed at the back of this already busy venue, wandering forward to a spot house right for main support Egyptian Blue, on at 8.15. Straight away a considerably more enticing proposition, all Will Sargent guitar textures, long gloomy raincoats, taut and tense rhythm and building mid-song crescendos, they not only elicited the obvious Bunnymen/ British Sea Power comparisons, but also the regimented, metronomic jangle and clipped vocals of the likes of Mission Of Burma or Gang Of Four. A study of insouciance, with very little audience interaction - only their change-of-pace last number was introduced, and that only with, "this is our last number" - this was nonetheless a fine support set from impressive if currently slightly derivative newcomers.
We kept our spot, but the place got proper old school rammed, with big blokes barging past left and right. An uncomfortable wait then, before choking dry ice, strobe and feedback welcomed The Murder Capital onstage at 9.20, intense vocalist Jack McGovern taking the stage last, barking out the terrace-chant hook of opener "More Is Less" to an increasing and adoring moshpit, whereupon he abandoned the stage and joined in! Sure, seen that plenty of times, but rarely if ever during the opening number...!
"What's the fucking story Bristol!" announced McGovern, relishing in his chief rabble-rouser role, before the discordant siren scream and militaristic drumbeat of "For Everything", which kept up the initial frenzied pace. No one-trick ponies however, this lot, as following an apposite address from McGovern emphasising the sense of community TMC have felt during this tour, they delivered the set highlight in an elegiac and astonishing "On Twisted Ground"; stark, bare and affecting, drawing not only reverential silence from the crowd, but an emotional, impassioned vocal from McGovern. The boy can sing, no messin', and judging by the moment he took to compose himself afterwards, the song clearly cut deep.
A staccato, Interpol-like "Green And Blue" changed up the tempo if not eerie mood; "Don't Cling To Life" again saw a frenzied moshpit spread out even to our vantage point, then the caustic, fractured punk of final number "Feeling Fades" (which in a Frank Turner "Photosynthesis" moment, initially saw the crowd crouch down - not me, not with these knees! - before bursting into ragged, raucous life) saw McGovern crowdsurf to its denouement, rounding off a stunning set which, if somewhat short at 50 minutes, never left anything out, material-wise or in terms of commitment.
The set lists went quickly to the moshpit massive (fair enough really), but we caught our breath then chanced to have a quick word and handshake with a surprisingly softly-spoken and humble frontman, laudably following up his onstage proclamation that he’d hang out afterwards at the merch stand. So, a dark, brutal and raw-boned set then from The Murder Capital, yet delivered with a confidence and swagger from a band clearly destined for much greater things. Glad I caught them on the way up, because the sky appears to be the limit for this lot. And as for McGovern? Well, judging by his flagrantly puffing away at a couple of ciggies onstage, he's not the messiah - he's a very naughty boy!