Sometimes a recording comes out of nowhere that is so happy making and oddly life affirming that you want to get up and dance. That is how I felt about a new release from one of my favorite underdog bands of the early 1980s, Martha & The Muffins (aka M+M) called Marthology: The In & Outtakes.
Hailing from Canada, Martha & The Muffins sprang on the scene in 1980 with an infectious new wave pop hit called “Echo Beach” and its equally strong debut album, Metro Music. After a good but somewhat transitional-sounding second album — with some great tunes including the title track “Trance & Dance” — the group rebounded with three recordings produced by future uber soundscape magician Daniel Lanois (this band is where the future U2 producer began his career). The first two albums he worked on in particular were wonderful artistic statements that elevated the group’s reputation significantly (This Is The Ice Age and Danseparc).
However, artistic integrity doesn’t necessarily put food on the table and by their fifth album the group name was reduced to a pair of initials – M + M — and the focus was no doubt on trying to capitalize on the dance pop craze of the times. They needed some hits and this effort scored them decent traction on MTV with “Black Stations / White Stations.”
After that the group sort of disappeared from visibility in America even though there were some releases internationally. And then, time seemed to simply march on and I found myself watching my rear view mirror to see if Martha & The Muffins would appear on the horizon catching up.
They issued a few albums over the years, keeping my faith in the group — I really enjoyed the 2010’s Delicate. I fully believe that if these folks could make albums as good as This Is The Ice Age and Danseparc they’ll probably deliver again when the time is right.
Anyhow, all this is set up to talk about the new album. I was pleased to receive an email from their fan list not long ago that a new CD titled Marthology: The In & Outtakes was coming out. I ordered it promptly and I’m enjoying it immensely.
Even though Marthology: The In & Outtakes is a collection of tracks from different stages of their career, the way it is sequenced it plays like a vintage Martha & The Muffins release. This is exciting for fans like me!
Given it is a retrospective of unreleased tracks across the ages, you’ll hear some sounds that are more new wave-y and rocking, while others are more ambient.
Others still are kind of pop-funky, bearing that mid 80s dance vibe.
The opening track “On a Silent Summer Evening” is a moody-slinky groove setter that recalls some of their ambient textures. Listen closely and slowly but surely you’ll realize that this song is also a twist on their first hit “Echo Beach” — not quite a remix but something new ultimately.
“Summer of Song” was formerly an Internet-only release that is beautiful and poignant. It feels like a track Bruce Springsteen could cover (I mean this in the best possible way as I’m a big Bruce fan).
Perhaps my favorite track so far on Marthology: The In & Outtakes is from 2011, a demo written for another artist that rocks like nobody’s business! “Act Like A Woman,” sounds like what might happen if Kim Deal or Pat Benatar sang lead vocals for Queens of the Stone Age. It’s that good and while not characteristically in the Martha & the Muffins vein, its ballsy-punky attitude makes the tune a total winner. “Do You Ever Wonder?” sounds like classic early Martha & The Muffins even though it was recorded in 1999.
And so it goes with this fun collection… clearly there have been many gems in their archives waiting for this sort of archival release.
In general the sound quality is excellent on Marthology: The In & Outtakes even though some of the tracks are demos. As CDs go it sounds pretty great! The bottom line if you’re a fan of the group, you need to own this one!
Here’s the other exciting bit of news: Martha & the Muffins are reportedly working on an entirely new album slated for release in 2022! This is a cause for celebration and something very happy to look forward to in the New Year.
What a great way to wrap up 2021!