After experiencing an awful, life changing event, Gigi’s recovery by Irish band The Murder Capital is a stunning and poignant album about the journey back to mental stability.
The album serves as a thematic sequel as well written and powerful as their incredible and emotionally captivating 2019 debut ‘When I have fears’, an album that deals with the traumatic suicide of a friend of the band. On Gigi’s recovery, The Murder Capital utilise their gorgeous (and often luscious), now more sombre and melancholic sound, to fittingly show the bands development of feelings as they move past rage and anger to feelings of emptiness and grief as the weight of loss properly sets in. The album is a fully imagined concept album about recovery as singer James McGovern shows us his journey from cripplingly low, to finding a way to confidently live on with the pain of loss.
The album opens with McGovern in a state of confusion and contemplating giving up on life on the short introduction track ‘Existence’.
“That morning I thought I’d skip this day forever became what if,”
He states, before the weight of his depression comes crashing down on him through rising distorted synths drowning out his repeated “existence fading.” This segues into the intense swirl of synths, pounding drums and layered distorted guitars on the first proper song ‘Crying’. At his lowest, James asks his bandmates “is this our end?”, painfully describing the gruesome scenes of the “night those eyes became two streams.” The song’s continuing chaos is a sonic representation of tension in McGovern’s mind as he battles his suicidal feelings. It’s an impressive start that from the beginning of the album emphasises McGovern’s place as a poetic visionary (and fantastic singer), more than most contemporaries in rock today. The Murder Capital still write amazingly put together and massive tracks.
On the anthemic ‘Ethel’ James imagines himself in the future with a partner and child, perhaps to give himself a reason for the future, as the band showcase their mastery of the slow build and huge finale style of song writing, in what is one of the best songs they have released.
‘The lie becomes the self’ is another of the album’s highlights; A stunningly pieced together multi-phased experience that opens with a gloomy post punk bass line, transitioning into an intimate acoustic guitar and piano verse which finally opens into an intricate and complex clean guitar line with droning feedback in the background and with a great rolling drum fill moves to a soft and lovely synthesiser chord outro. It’s a remarkable song with well thought out transitions that manages to pack so much well performed styles of music into a relatively short amount of time. The lie does indeed become the self as James battles denial in the acceptance of his loss, only to be left asking himself “what is it all about, what is it all about if I can’t hear your laugh if I can’t hear you laughing?” after once again coming to terms with his trauma.
The album’s narrative takes an optimistic turn on the compact and busy ‘A Thousand Lives’. James finds a passion to live once more through his love for his partner, proclaiming “beside you I die to exist” and boldly stating his new commitment to life. The song starts off a with fast but subdued trip hop style drum pattern and follows a foundationally quiet verse loud chorus formula that subsequently rises from the pretty flourishes of delayed guitar into a jaw dropping rock-god climax of distorted and delayed heavy guitars front and centre layered over electric drum fills from Diarmuid Brennan and a powerful bassline from Gabriel Paschal Blake. The song is one of the most memorable moments on the album due to this truly monumental and creative ending, one of the many examples of how far more interesting and complex the guitar playing of Damien Tuit and Cathal Roper has become.
Gigi’s peak emotional climax comes in its final, titular, track. The album’s narrative: themes of loss, hopelessness, sorrow, and optimism have led up to this moment, as the 6-minute epic details James’ journey of depression and nihilism to the separation of his will for life and trauma as he realises “I am not my sorrow”, a line that is delivered with immense emotional weight, considering the journey through emptiness to recovery that the listener is taken on. The quality of musical performance coupled with McGovern’s amazing vocals, and the dense layers of instrumentation on this song – the band throw every instrument and technique they have used over the course of the record into this songs’ huge last 2 minutes – ensures that although it follows a similar structure of the other songs on the album, it seems to hit with a greater weight.
The incredible journey through luscious and mellow – yet chaotic – instrumentation, and a story about recovery from loss that is Gigi’s Recovery ends in contrast to how it opened, with the short outro Exist as a soft acoustic guitar, playing as James commits to “stay forever in my own skin.” A poignant ending that wraps up this captivating album’s story nicely.
by Jamie Burns (he/him)