26th April | Exchange
Martha’s indie punk-pop is just the kind of act that feels right at home in Bristol. Anarchist, straight-edged and vegan, they also boast good humour and individuality to boot. What’s more, they have no trouble filling up the back room of Exchange to capacity with their light-hearted, upbeat sound.
In very punk fashion, warm-up act, Nervous Rex espouse counter-culture ideals during their short, sharp set. In the fifteen minutes they’re on stage, they touch on topics stretching from the Cretaceous to communism and civil disobedience. Although amateurish, it’s a fun change to hear the three-piece’s strongly-held beliefs in musical format. For example, drummer JC spits out anti-establishment poetry at pace on a track concerning the Stanstead fifteen anti-deportation protesters. Just like that, the set’s over.
WOAHNOWS take the stage. They’re well-rehearsed and likeable – and their blasts of guitar shake the stage from the get-go. Quick tempo changes, and explosive, rhythmic instrumentation are their mode d’emploi. WOAHNOWS rock hard in a refreshingly idiosyncratic way. A set highlight is a high-energy track featuring heavy use of their gock block (“Not a cowbell!”). I’ll be surprised if they don’t establish themselves as a force of UK punk in the future.
Now for the main event – as soon as Martha start playing, the venue comes alive. They begin with ‘Wrestlemania VIII’, a rapid and fan-favourite cut from new album, Love Keeps Kicking, that leads straight into ‘Chekhov’s Hangnail’. Every word the band sings is belted out by fans in equal measure. Although, with lyrics like, “An existential crisis mixtape on repeat until I die / Left decomposing on the floor, this routine’s awful for my posture”, I’d be more worried if fans didn’t remember every single word.
Martha have a character that shines out of every track. They relax on stage, comfortable with their instruments, the limelight, and most importantly, their own skins. Vocals are shared between the members, lending their heartfelt songs yet more layers of distinctive feeling.
The real lyrical skill of Martha is shown by how their songs reflect so truly the realities of modern life. In ‘Present, Tense’, it’s the Megabus to Brighton; in ‘Heart is Healing’ it’s the mundanity of doing admin with a broken heart. It’s sometimes even the unintended lyrics that are best: Martha embrace that ’11:45, Legless in Brandon’ is now, unequivocally, a song about yoghurt.
By the time the titular, ‘Love Keeps Kicking’ is played, the once-static room has fully loosened into a free-form dancefloor. The endlessly-catchy hooks just ooze pop. ‘1967, I Miss You I’m Lonely’ is another tightly-strummed, sunny track. It’s clear from their looks and demeanour that Martha eschew conventional ‘cool’, which makes them that little bit more appealing.
Martha’s cult following only grows larger; as they play out their vivid tales on stage, it’s simple to see why. Even the grumpiest attendee is smiling as they leave Exchange, riding high on the wave of pure punk-pop enthusiasm that Martha release each time they play. If you’re searching for a modern punk sound, look no further than Martha.
See the video for ‘Into This’ here: