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There Is Fun Stuff and Cool Stuff and There Can Be Resistance: Martha Talk 'Love Keeps Kicking'

Tuesday, 02 April 2019 Written by Huw Baines

One of life’s dirtiest tricks is the way it slowly erodes the time we have to do the things we love. In response we have nights spent on either side of a low stage, sweat flying and words being wrenched from hoarse throats. “When we’re on tour and playing shows I’m like: ‘This is me’. And then I quickly get back into normal, boring work,” Martha bassist Naomi Griffin says.

Among many things, the band’s new record, ‘Love Keeps Kicking’, is a response to this reality. It was written and recorded in patches of downtime between day jobs, a slight remove from their early days as punk kids spending every waking moment assembling deeply catchy indie-pop songs indebted to everyone from Paul Heaton to Crass, Superchunk, and the leading lights of the Paisley Underground.

“It’s a lot harder for us these days to all be in the same place at the same time for a long period of time,” Griffin adds. “That’s something we need to plan more than when we first started, when we were mostly students. But we do also spend a lot of time together. We’re a band but we’re also family and friends and we like each other a lot. That’s something that’s been consistent—if we have an idea for a song there’s probably always going to be one or two of us in a space with another one at any time.”

‘Love Keeps Kicking’ is Martha’s third LP, following 2014’s ‘Courting Strong’ and 2016’s ‘Blisters in the Pit of My Heart’, and their first for Big Scary Monsters following the shuttering of the widely-loved label Fortuna Pop!. It finds the quartet, who hail from Pity Me in the northeast of England, embracing a Lydia Loveless-style country twang alongside guitarist Daniel Ellis’s increasingly complex leads.

In its best moments, and there are a lot of them, it’s a triumphant, uplifting clash of melody and collectivism. But, beneath the surface, the water is roiling. “We realised as we were writing that a lot of the sentiments of the songs were coming from a less hopeful place than maybe our previous records did,” drummer Nathan Stephens-Griffin says. “The band is still trying to have a nice time despite everything being really difficult.”

The album’s title track is a case in point. J. Cairns delivers its apparently celebratory chorus a couple of times before rounding on the listener two thirds of the way through: “You said ‘love keeps kicking the shit out of me, and there’s no solution I can see’.” Stitched throughout, between vivid character studies and a creeping sense of societal malaise, are allusions to a break up that ran concurrently to the early thrashings of the Brexit snafu. “There’s a lot of micro-individual and macro-world-being-fucked links going on,” Griffin says.

“The first song is about someone who wants to stay in the ‘fuck it, everything’s completely fucked’ nihilism thing, which was trendy for a while but has kind of died off a bit since the bleakness has ramped up and up,” Stephens-Griffin adds. “The start of the album is saying ‘No, don’t stay there, push through it’. There is fun stuff and cool stuff, and there can be resistance.”

‘Love Keeps Kicking’ does what it can to build a complete picture. Amid some bare-bones self-analysis—Stephens-Griffin’s Orange Juice, in particular—there is The Void, a mercilessly catchy song about existential dread, and sidelines in off-beat sci-fi and pro-wrestling. It feels like a day in the life—some of it is bleak, some of it heartwarming, some of it deadly serious and some of it anything but.

“That’s where the hope comes in,” Griffin says. “Even if there’s not an obvious way that things are going to get better, hiding from it isn’t necessarily going to help. There’s not just heartache in terms of a break up, but there’s heartache in terms of grief and loss on the record. This sadness is always going to be here from now on, but we can let other stuff grow around it and be hopeful in that way.”

This spring Martha will head out for a European tour, including some UK shows prior to a handful of festival sets. In November, meanwhile, they’re set to play their biggest headline date yet at London’s Heaven. ‘Love Keeps Kicking’ will add further ballast to setlists that seek to take a couple of hundred people outside of their day-to-day, Martha’s four members included.

“We don’t really make money from doing the band, and any we do make tends to be taken very quickly by the next adventure,” Stephens-Griffin says. “It’s an outlet that’s very important to all of us.”

‘Love Keeps Kicking’ is out on April 5 through Big Scary Monsters/Dirtnap.

Martha Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue April 16 2019 - LONDON Garage
Wed April 17 2019 - NEWCASTLE  Star & Shadow Cinema
Fri April 26 2019 - BRISTOL Exchange
Sat April 27 2019 - BRIGHTON West Hill Hall
Sun April 28 2019 - BIRMINGHAM Hare And Hounds
Fri May 03 2019 - GLASGOW Mono - Kings Court
Tue September 03 2019 - CAMBRIDGE Portland Arms
Fri November 08 2019 - LONDON Heaven

Click here to compare & buy Martha Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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