I first stumbled over McCarthy Vigil at a gig with The Surrogates at Barnsley’s The Courthouse in 2012. I’d heard of these fellas before and certainly recognised them from around town, but I really didn’t know what to expect. What I got was Talking Heads jaunty rhythms juxtaposed with gloopy melodies, beards and some tunes that really made the art-crowd swing.
This, their debut self-titled EP comes off the back of their track “Chinese Candle” also released through Of National Importance Records on the compilation EP “Pareidolia” in 2013.
The EP opens with Luxury Pets, and I am instantly reminded of one reasons why I liked this band so much live. Their use of subtly layering vocals and the quiet-riot backing vocals are tremendous, bringing to mind the brilliant Modest Mouse. The back-end of the track is reminiscent of Arcade Fire chanteuse Régine Chassagne courtesy of guest vocals by Annie J. Winder, a local artist who also provides the EP’s artwork.
Second track, Swell Guys, starts with a sample of Matthew McConaughey’s ‘house rules’ speech from Magic Mike, which works perfectly alongside the guitar swells, agit-Radiohead rhythms (bit Idioteque) and distorted vocals (bit Deerhunter). Annie Winder airy vocals appear briefly again, but hidden amongst the foliage of the high-end guitar motifs. The song could have ended after five minutes but here there are no Motown-quick hits; each of these three tracks clock in at over five minutes, and the last-minute and a half of this one is one big freak-out singalong. McCarthy Vigil play out a tonne of ideas and tricks on just this song alone, yet make manage to make it sound as smooth and slick as possible.
The Wives close the EP and it seems that Annie might have become a permanent member. Her contribution adds a totally new, subtle and now essential dimension to the Vigil. For those familiar with the band via 2013’s Chinese Candle alone, it does have a similar feel to it, though here the track also takes in a Spanish guitar doing Street Spirit, percussion that couldn’t be more theatrical if it tried, and vocal that is so heartbreaking urgent, that it makes you just want to get up and scream along with them.
For a band that has only been playing together since 2010, they play like veterans, but the McCarthy Vigil of 2014 is moving at a different pace to the one of two years ago, and all the better for it. They have more ideas and direction that most bands. Each song is so beautifully crafted that even when it’s difficult to decipher lyrics, it doesn’t matter – it’s just another strand to unravel with multiple listens. Like their previous recordings, there is always new detail to discover every time.
They are matched only by Mynas, as a Barnsley band that manages to play out so many ideas and directions with so much technical skill successfully.
If you’re a fan of Radiohead old and new, early Arcade Fire and bands that aren’t scared to experiment with both the fragile and the chaotic, then listen to McCarthy Vigil. A band clever and not affraid to show it.
McCarthy Vigil play an exclusive acoustic set at The Old No7 on Friday 30th May.
McCarthy Vigil EP is out now via Of National Importance Records.
Keep up to date with McCarthy Vigil news by following facebook.com/mccarthyvigil