It seemed fitting that Martha’s rather splendid debut album featured a track called ‘1997, Passing In The Hallway’, so strongly did their sound evoke the chaotic DIY indie-punk that ran alongside the Britpop scene of nearly twenty years ago. Fans of Helen Love and Bis will feel utterly at home amongst the ferocious energy, spiky riffs and unashamed jangle on show here, finessed with an encyclopaedic knowledge of classic pop hooks used to full effect.
It’s hard not to interpret several perversely awful titles as a message to the casual listener to move along. The intensity of Martha’s music inspires devotion, devotion so strong that it can see past ‘Chekhov’s Hangnail’ and ‘Curly & Raquel’ as names for songs far better than they might suggest. The former features the oddly poetic refrain “when it rains, well it really fucking pours” and backing vocals from Trust Fund’s Ellis Jones, while the latter is a magical account of unlikely love that sets off at such a pace that half the band seem to initially struggle to keep up.
Speaking to communal angst, shared worries and notions of confused identity, this is an album where the lyrics are hugely important, despite often being delivered atop a squall of noise. Sharing the vocal responsibilities around the whole group, Martha possess an inviting and inclusive sound to match their socially astute observations. ‘Precarious (The Supermarket Song)’ is a glorious tale of love amongst the bargain-priced aisles, thwarted by unhelpfully timed shifts. Like pretty much all of ‘Blisters In The Pit Of My Heart’, it is almost improbably catchy from the off and blends enormous riffs with duelling vocals.
Amongst many highlights is the shape-shifting ‘Icecream and Sunscreen’, which manages to be two songs in one, despite only just nudging past the two-minute mark. A wistful lament is suddenly transformed into a vivid, jangly burst of memory that frazzles out after a brief, but vibrant outing. ‘Do Nothing’ sulks about with a grunge scene haircut and a couple of Pixies albums under the arm, before crossing continents for its final few minutes of Housemartins-aping pogoing.
Martha are everything you want a great pop band to be: students of their trade, people with something to say and the vocabulary to do it, a distinctively joyous sound and a grand sense of humour. Buy it, play it, play it again and again and again, and fall in love.
Words: Gareth James
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