Martha And The Muffins
Marthology: In And Outtakes
Popguru Sound And Vision
The last Martha And The Muffins album was Delicate, released in 2010. It seemed that that would be their last as a group for a number of reasons. By then Martha And The Muffins was really Mark Gane and Martha Johnson, the core of the original band. Following Delicate, there were reissues, internet singles, as well as Martha Johnson’s solo album, Solo One (2013), of which 10 percent of the proceeds were donated to the Michael J. Fox Foundation, in part inspired by Johnson’s own diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. But, Marthology: In And Outtakes Is their first full album of new(ish) material in many years. It Is really a compilation of material recorded before and after Delicate. Some had been previously released and a few songs never released at all. As a result, one is treated to a mini-history of this incredible band over the past 30 years, and quite frankly it holds together and it becomes a solid, cohesive album.
Some of the tracks have been released as internet only songs (such as 2017’s “Summer Of Song” or 2010’s “Big Day”) while others have appeared on compilations, such as “Resurrection” (originally released on their 1998 best off Then Again: A Retrospective) or the first single from Do You Ever Wonder (from the 1998 Popguru compilation The World According To Popguru). While others are unreleased versions of previously released ones, such as “Fighting The Monster”, which appears in a very different form on their 1992 album Modern Lullabies. There are even two versions of their classic “Echo Beach” — “Echo Beach (30th Anniversary Version)” and “On A Silent Summer Evening (Echo Beach Version)”.
Perhaps most interesting are the previously unreleased tracks that demonstrate the genius and creativity of Martha And The Muffins. “Talking Through My Hat” is wonderful, playful and yet dark, featuring some very fine vocals from Martha Johnson on top of a wonderfully sparse arrangement, while “Don’t Monkey With My Love” is a dance hit waiting to happen. “Delicate” is anything but delicate and features some fine guitar work from Mark Gane. Bonus track, “I Am Vertical” is perhaps the oldest track on the album. A 1988 demo, yet it sounds remarkably current and is extremely energetic. While even the previously released songs have a great deal of charm and are well worth revisiting, especially the mellow, and melancholic “Echo Beach (30th Anniversary Version)”
Marthology: In And Outtakes is an album full of great music. Gane and Johnson have always been very original with their music, and this album demonstrates their ability to experiment and yet still maintain strong melodies and accessible music. “Summer Of Song”, a beautiful song reflecting on the history of the band, is a wonderful example, taking twists and turns but in the end a magnificent ballad, featuring warm vocals and quite reflective lyrics.
Word has it that Johnson and Gane are releasing a new Martha And The Muffins album in 2022, and this is just getting people ready. But it is also a nice way of gathering together some lost gems and collecting them on one album. There are a few strays still to be collected such as the charming “Stay Home And Dance” released last year or their Joni Mitchell cover, “Shades Of Scarlett Conquering”, but even with these omissions, it is a fairly complete snapshot of the second half of this band.
SPILL ALBUM REVIEW: MARTHA AND THE MUFFINS – MARTHOLOGY: IN AND OUTTAKES