NPR, “The World’s Best Straight-Edge, Vegan, Anarchist Rock Band,” October 9, 2014

The World’s Best Straight-Edge, Vegan, Anarchist Rock Band
Otis Hart, NPR, October 9, 2014

Drive five hours north-northwest of London, and you’ll find yourself in the North East, a sparsely-populated, Labour-leaning, working-class region of England that creeps along the eastern border of Scotland. Drive a few more minutes, and you’ll reach an old coal-mining town that someone long ago felt compelled to name Pity Me. With a population around 6,000, it’s an unlikely base for one of Britain’s best rock bands, which is fitting because Martha is unlike most rock bands.

In passing, the foursome’s pop-punk anthems resemble a ramshackle Weezer, full of young love, open chords and ecstatic harmonies. But spend some time with the threads that run through Martha’s addictive debut album, Courting Strong, and watch that sweater begin to unravel. The lovelorn underdogs that come to life during its 10 songs combat conformity in every way imaginable: the queer crushes in “1997, Passing In The Hallway” and “Gin and Listerine”; the sentimental anarchist in “Present, Tense”; the tongue-tied intellectual in “1967, I Miss You, I’m Lonely.”

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