At the 2013 Indietracks Festival Martha were the must see band, winning both the most band t-shirts worn contest as well as best stage invasion prize. The four-piece from the wonderfully titled village of Pity Me, near Durham, are not exactly rewriting rock, on either their first album Courting Strong or this their latest release. There have been many, many bands that have already trod this well worn path of presenting shouty, romantic and embattled vocals wrapped up in a three minute, fast paced pop song, complete with guitar solos and rousing sing-a-long choruses.
But, and this is important, it doesn’t matter that they lack innovation. Martha have a spirit, which many of their contemporaries lack. When they sing about the “toxic culture” of a Catholic education on the track St Paul’s (Westerberg Comprehensive) and its effect on anyone who dares to be different, or heaven forbid gay, they really mean it.
When they sing about romance discovered in the washing powder aisle of a supermarket, as on one of the album’s best tracks Precarious (The Supermarket Song), you can really feel the heartstrings pull.
Its no wonder they appeared at Glastonbury’s Leftfield stage last year at the personal request of Billy Bragg. At Bragg’s Glastonbury set this year, before launching into Greeting From the New Brunette he told budding protest song writers in the audience to make sure they also write about romance. Martha have clearly listened and Bragg even gets a reference on the Coronation Street themed Curly and Raquel, about the TV soap’s odd and ultimately doomed couple.
This album is also a lot of fun, especially on Goldman’s Detective Agency, where Victorian anarchist Emma Goldman is re-imagined as a corruption-tackling private eye, backed by some fine Thin Lizzy style guitar playing.
It’s hard to fault this album across its 11 excellent, upbeat tracks, which made me think, smile, dance as well as want to immediately go and see them live and join them for a stage invading sing-a-long. Who needs originality when you have this much heart?
by Joe Lepper
Martha – Blisters In The Pit Of My Heart is released by Fortuna Pop on July 8.