Martha at Castle and FalconSupport: Wiiince
February 5, 2023 at Castle and Falcon
Promoter: This Is TMRW
Cast your mind… back a week or two, join me dancin’ and singin’ down at the Darkest Timeline Disco. This is how indie punk sweethearts Martha have styled their continuing episodic tour for last year’s excellent album Please Don’t Take Me Back. What at first glance reads like a witty twist on lost love is really more a rejection of the suffocating nostalgia the UK has been pulling ever tighter around itself. In Martha songs, as in life, the personal and political are entwined. And then faced down by excitable pop thrills.
Local indie poppers Wiiince are already onstage when I arrive. Rumpled and unobtrusive, at first glance they’re almost a hurtful caricature of the genre. Under rehearsed, glad to be here but somehow apologetic about taking the stage. The songs feel seconds from collapse, and not in a thrilling rock ‘n’ roll way, more in a “worrying I left the gas on” sort of way. All-out calamity is avoided though, and my general impression is improved by their last couple of numbers. More fully formed and melodic, you can hear where they’d put the handclaps and how a touch of production would make those harmonies shine, and suddenly there’s a reason to keep an eye on what they do next.
Martha hitting the stage and roaring straight into ‘Beat Perpetual’ is almost cinematic. It’s like a scene in a teen movie where the loser weirdo band turn out to be incredible and win over the crowd by the end of the first chorus. An instant classic, it already feels like an old friend. A keep on keeping-on chant that mixes pandemic inertia with lost love, the thrill of music, and the open road. It’s a very Martha anthem.
The creeping despair it only hints at is dragged fully into the light on ‘Everyday The Hope Gets Harder’ a furious and thrilling two-minute banger venting the fears and frustrations of the past few years on our septic isle, “As we demonstrated/ Optimism faded/ Dreams annihilated/ Fuck this place, I hate it” is pointed, poetic and true. As angry as it is, the song is uplifting – a rallying cry in the darkness. Again, this is very Martha. The little Brexit rant before the unequivocal ‘FLAG // BURNER’ is about venting shared frustration rather than sloganeering.
Anarchist, queer, vegan, they’re a political band to their core, but less about confrontation than connection. JC makes a comment about recognising the power in the room; about being open to the strength in community, or realising you aren’t alone. They take it in turns to sing lead, a division of labour that truly shines when they harmonise. Now that’s what I call praxis. Martha are all about the collective over the individual, but the possibility of being dour and worthy is left in the dust by their endless capacity for infectiously fizzing melody – perfectly demonstrated by a joyful romp through old favourites like ‘Bubble in My Bloodstream’ and ‘Curly & Raquel’.
The set draws from all four of their albums, but it’s a measure of the band’s confidence that they open with the first two songs off their latest record, and throw in another of its stand-outs ‘Baby, Does Your Heart Sink?’ at the end. They finish with an acapella run through of ‘Take Me Back to the Old Days’, which is a surprise and a neat underlining of its message. They come back for an encore of old favourites because they’re about finding light in the darkness, and having a good time despite everything. Martha are a splendid conundrum: both special and ordinary, and somehow special because they are ordinary; but mostly they’re a life affirming shot of pop.