Martha & the Muffins – Marthology (review)

Martha & the Muffins – Marthology: In and Outtakes (Popguru)

Very good compilation of odds and ends from an under-appreciated band

This Canadian group had one monster hit, “Echo Beach,” in 1980, hitting Top Ten in both their native country and the UK.  Problem is, they may have been a little too ahead of their time for the States, where they remain cult favorites at best.  

Marthology is a collection of unfinished demos, b-sides and remixes, covering 35 years of material, yet it all holds together surprisingly well. While many members have come and gone over the years, the duo of Martha Johnson and Mark Gane have been the constants.

The set starts with “On a Silent Summer Evening,” which reworks parts of their signature, “Echo Beach,” into a pulsing, dance track.

Some songs definitely sound older – “Don’t Monkey With My Love” was a demo the pair cut in the mid-Eighties, and it has a pop sheen, indicative of that era, while the bouncy “Do You Ever Wonder” sounds like the 80’s, but was recorded in 1999.

One of the real treats is “Big Day,” a hard rocker that previously only showed up as a b-side.  Here, Martha has great harmonies and the catchy, “365, 12, 52” chorus is catchy as hell.  

“Act Like a Woman” is another standout.  The song originally appeared on a Martha Johnson solo record in a sparse arrangement.  Here, retitled, reworked into a stomping punk number, it’s a vast improvement.

The set also features “Echo Beach (30th anniversary version),” a more recent reinterpretation of their hit.  This new take is slower, somber, and full of regret.  It also puts more emphasis on the lyrics, which sort of speed by in the 1980 original.  

Martha & the Muffins may not be a household name, but Marthology proves they deserve a closer look.  —Tony Peters