In the world of The Murder Capital fandom, somehow, the three-and-a-half-years between their debut and Gigi’s Recovery began to seem like a lifetime. People were worried. Did this mean that they weren’t coming back? That they would be somehow diminished when they did? It’s a sign of their close connection with a band like Fontaines DC, who release albums as often as my uncle takes a shower, that less than four years should have us reaching for the panic button. But now that Gigi’s Recovery is finally here, there can be absolute no doubt that that amount of time away did change them. This album is not like the first. Detractors of When I Have Fears have been heard to say that ‘you may as well just listen to Joy Division’ but, with the new release, that lazy criticism is now even less valid. This doesn’t sound like Ian Curtis and co – but neither does it sound much like The Murder Capital that many of us fall so deeply in love with in 2019.
Does that mean it’s bad? Well, I will say that I can totally understand the criticism that I imagine some people will aim at it. What was so mesmerising about the debut is gone, to a degree – this is no longer a brooding, slow burn, sprawling instrumental moments type of band. Almost all of the songs on Gigi’s Recovery are more to the point, more instantaneous – dare I even say more catchy? Take ‘Return My Head’, for example. The song opens with an almost chirpy vocal delivery from James McGovern (when compared with the previous output), and the song just unfurls from there, hitting pretty close to indie anthem territory. You can imagine a festival crowd bopping to this and singing the chorus back to the band. But while I can see some fans turning their nose up at this one, I think it’s a stormer.
Single ‘Only Good Things’ is the other song that fits mostly closely in this camp. It might even be a happy song, for fuck’s sake. But again, for me, that is not to its detriment – it is actually quite cathartic to hear a band that were so melancholy releasing songs that bristle with joy. ‘Ethel’ might also be included in this set of songs, although I’d say the true meaning of the track is a little bit more obscure – that said, lines such as ‘ten steps to your favourite bar tonight’, ‘you’re full of flavour and you’re winning best dressed tonight’ and ‘we’re all flying high, high, high’ certainly suggest a newly celebratory tone. It’s also an interesting lyrical departure for James, with the song losing the abstract feel of previous work to become frank and clear. It’s another great song.
Despite all of this, I am not claiming that the band has lost its identity. ‘A Thousand Lives’ indulges in the darkness, ‘The Stars Will Leave Their Stage’ has their original imprint all over it (only with some added electronics), and ‘The Lie Becomes The Self’ is the closest to the songs that we heard on When I Have Fears. But they have evolved. And due to the nature of that evolution, due to the fact that they have become more accessible and a little lighter, it’s unlikely that the change will be a good one for all listeners. But on a personal level, I enjoy the album a lot – and I am sure my enjoyment of it will only increase when I see the songs live in a couple of weeks’ time. Whether it ever reaches the classic status that the debut has achieved in my collection is to be determined, but it will get plenty of opportunity to do so. I’ll be playing it for a long time yet.
Words by Fran Slater