Martha’s power-pop perfection, Blisters in the Pit of My Heart

MarthaThe events that make up Blisters in the Pit of My Heart primarily take place in transitory places: buses, shopping aisles, streets, school corridors, low-paid jobs, gender-neutral toilets. It's a record that wonders where it is you're supposed to be going, what you're supposed to be waiting for, and when might be reasonable to expect its arrival. It's a record that celebrates life's sharp edges, while recognising that they're often just four isolated incidents on an otherwise uninterrupted expanse of white photocopy paper. It's a record that could only have been written by a group of vegan, straight-edge anarchists who genuinely hail from an old pitting village in County Durham called Pity Me. Which is to say, it could only belong to Martha.

In that respect, "Christine" serves as the album in microcosm. Opening proceedings in a breathless punk rush, retold episodes of throwing up after too much boxed wine are cherished more than any saccharine attempts at romance: "Everybody else just bores me... I'll remember you in all your glory." Like most of the characters here, vomit and glory prove to be equally key signifiers, and there's a good chance you'll end up covered in at least one of them. "Precarious (The Supermarket Song)" casts a longing glance at a cute checkout worker, but unlike Arctic Monkeys, comes off way more charming than leery, helped along by cheap but loveable jokes about "walking down the aisle" and "an unexpected item in your bagging area".

Some might cast a band like Martha as twee, or even pretentious, for writing songs that reimagine pioneering anarchist Emma Goldman as a modern P.I. ("Goldman's Detective Agency"), or naming songs after Coronation Street couples. What both those qualities share in common is affectation: being cutesy, kitsch, intellectual, or even dumb, in a fake way. It's not an accusation you could ever meaningfully throw at Martha, because - my god, even when they're shamelessly ripping on Boston for "The Awkward Ones", and all you want to do is start singing "More Than A Feeling" over that strumming pattern, like Kurt Cobain had the good grace to do occasionally on "Smells Like Teen Spirit" - they really, really mean it. The pretentious ones are those who spend all their time and energy trying to convince you how serious and deep and intense they are - bands like Editors, basically. Martha don't need to do that, for three reasons.

One: they're genuinely funny.

Two: if they wanted to make you cry, though, they could. See closing track "St Paul's (Westerberg Comprehensive)".

Three: for all the DIY, lo-fi punk ethos, they're actually a pretty great rock band. Some of the Thin Lizzy riffs arrive pre-packed in inverted commas, almost so obvious that they want everyone to know it's a steal, like singing in a funny voice to mask the fact that you can actually nail that shit. But occasionally they really let loose, allowing the songs to expand and take shape beyond four-chord piledrivers. "Do Nothing" is just that, a song that completely forgets itself around the three-minute mark, and explodes into an unashamedly thrilling classic rock blowout.

Blisters in the Pit of My Heart is about special people and ordinary people, the mundane and the magical, and how they're often the same thing. "I'm a person, you're a person," they sing. "Nothing else is really certain." It's a tongue-in-cheek, queer love song to the world of getting-byers working shitty, part-time jobs to pay for whatever it is that requires them to work shitty, part-time jobs in the first place. That's life, I guess. And in the middle of it all are some people you fancy.

Release: 8th July 2016, Fortuna POP!


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