County Durham charmers knock it out the park on third full length…

Grab yourself a bowl, throw in a cup of Belle and Sebastian’s lyricism, a dash of The Smiths’ kitchen sink realism, sprinkle some smouldering J Mascis riffs and you’ll get something close to Martha.

For the past five-plus years this quartet of perky punks has blessed us with infectious hooks and boundless energy. With song titles like '11.45, Legless in Brandon' and 'Gin and Listerine' it’s clear the band isn't afraid to tackle the nitty-gritty of British life. What sets them apart, however, is the sheer charm and power in which they do so. 

While our green and plastered land isn't short on indie bands with a love of wordplay, not many can reach the pop hooks and sense of melody displayed by this group of misfits since their 2014 debut 'Courting Strong'. Five years of touring and writing later, the band marks 2019 with third album 'Love Keeps Kicking', and it's a beaut. 

On paper, the recipe of old remains: foot tapping tempos, shared vocal duties, and some impressive shredding. They've always produced music that takes strength in vulnerability, but now there's an increased sense of resilience, combatting the confused times we find ourselves in.

Life and love are hard these days, but it's a lot easier with a sing-along chorus for the disenfranchised.

From the opening burst of single 'Heart is Healing' the band grabs listeners by the collar, regaling them with tales of emotional confusion, drunken affection and overcoming past mistakes at breakneck speed.

'Mini Was A Preteen Arsonist' tackles the tricky subject of wasted talent with aplomb, 'Into This Digital' the often one-sided tale of attraction, while highlight 'Orange Juice' laments the times when said attraction sadly fades away. 

These are subjects Martha have covered before, but this is a band honing their craft further. The sound is bigger, tighter and more assured. Still, it's in the second half of the record you'll find the most mature and distinctive material. 'The Void' sees the group teeter nearer a post-punk vibe, the band sounding as close to pissed as they ever have. It's a defiant and exhilarating number, throwing a middle finger to the current darkness affecting us all. 

On the flip side is 'The Only Letter That You Kept' which slows things down for a melancholic yet hopeful finale, organ and textured vocals brought in for a more textured, elegant delivery.

With 'Love Keeps Kicking' Martha have delivered 11 brilliant sketches on modern life and all the bullshit that comes with it. Sure, some days are hard, but there's still plenty to celebrate. Like an old mate lending a sympathetic ear, it's a record that helps remind you we're all in this together. 

8/10

Words: Sam Walker-Smart

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