Martha are “a pop band from Durham” and they are wonderful. If you are not already addicted to their fast paced, jagged guitar music and sparkling lyrics then you need to make more of an effort.
Blisters in the Pit of My Heart is the band’s second LP, following 2014’s Courting Strong. The content of both records led markontour to believe that the songwriters were still teenagers. ‘Precarious (supermarket song)’, for example, charts the moment passion ignited at the checkout and joins the protagonist as he plucks up the courage to ask out the girl/boy of his shelf-stacking dreams:
I’m gonna finish what I started
I’m gonna go to the supermarket,
Straightening my tie,
Plucking up the might,
To ask you out on Saturday night.
There’s more young love in ‘Christine’, where things have to get messy to get sorted:
But at a party all the planets got in line,
Passion forged under a four pound box of wine,
That’s when you knew, when you felt certain it was love,
He held your hair while you were throwing up
But while the settings are teenage, having seen their cracking live-set at Scala recently, Martha are well into their twenties. Are the songs the stuff of nostalgia, or have the band got so much good material that they’re still working their way through the stuff from a decade ago?
It’s harder to tell because all four members contribute both song-writing and lyrics. Like watching Game of Thrones, it’s going to take markontour a until album/series three to properly work out who is who. But it doesn’t really matter as every song is a gem and every band member an individual talent.
The multiplicity of songwriters also makes it tough to define the band’s sound or pinpoint influences, but there’s definitely a bit of Housemartins in the mix in both the pace and lyrical sophistication of the songs. There’s also a nod to Billy Bragg’s ‘Greetings to the New Brunette’ on ‘Curly and Raquel’. But whereas Bragg’s tortured lover celebrated his love “with a pint of beer and a new tattoo” in the 1980s, Martha’s 2017 hero is “Celebrating my love for you / With a stick’n’poke and an Iron Brew”.
I admit I had to look up ‘stick’n’poke‘, and am taking the second half of the stanza as confirmation that teenagers drink less these days.
Martha don’t seem to sell a lot of records and are still playing fairly small venues, but from the one gig markontour has been lucky enough to attend, they have a fanatical following. Standing in the centre of what would once have been the mosh-pit, everyone in touching distance was shouting out the lyrics with enough passion that we got each song in surround sound.
That feels like a reminder to stop blogging and get back to the serious business of listening to Martha, at least if I’m going to be able to join the crowd-singing at the next gig.
Nb Martha are on tour in July. Don’t miss out.