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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Martha & The Muffins - This is the Ice Age

Name: Martha & The Muffins
Album: This is the Ice Age
Year: 1981
Style: Pop, New Wave, New Age
Similar Bands: Lou Reed, Jerry Harrison, Talking Heads, Cocteu Twins, Daves, Blondie
"One-Word" Review: Sci-Fi Fantasy Soundtrack
Based Out Of: Toronto, ON
Label: Polygram, Virgin, Dindisc
This is the Ice Age - Cover & Record
This is the Ice Age - Back & Record
This is the Ice Age (1981)
  1. Swimming 3:52
  2. Women Around the World At Work 3:46
  3. Casualties of Glass 5:09
  4. Boy Without Filters 4:58
  5. Jets Seem Slower in London Skies 2:34/
  6. This is the Ice Age 7:25
  7. One Day in Paris 4:15
  8. You Sold the Cottage 3:55
  9. Three Hundred Years / Chemistry 7:00
Album Rating (1-10): 6.5

Members & Other Bands:
Martha Johnson - Vox, Keys, Percussion
Mark Gane - Guitar, Vox, Keys, Treatments, Percussion, Cover
Tim Gane - Drum Kit, Percussion
Andy Haas - Sax, Trombone
Jocelyne Lanois - Bass, Backing vox, Percussion, Keys
Daniel Lanois - Backing Vox, Percussion, Treatments, Production, Engineer,
Nick Gane - Casiotone, Noise Generator
Sandy Horne - Backing Vox
Gordon Deppe - Backing Vox
Alyx Skriabow - Backing Vox
Andy Condon - Hand Claps, Asst. Engineer
George Axon - Percussion, Asst. Engineer
Corinne Plomish - Backing Vox
Glenn Schellenberg - Piano
David Millar - Live Sound
Gerry Young - Management

Unknown-ness: Never heard of these guys. But I like the minimal artwork and pastel sky colors on the cover and back. Plus, with the name like Martha & The Muffins, I can’t expect it to be too serious. The name actually sounds like they should have come out of Hoboken at this time period.

Album Review: “Swimming” begins with traffic & car sound effects, and then an icy cold key melody begins. The monotone (but harmonic) male vocals remind me of Lou Reed for the little I know of him, and Jerry Harrison, who I’ve reviewed before. It has a bit of an electro-dance beat to it. Female backing vocals take over the lead toward the end, bringing new life to the melody. The guitar sounds a little 8-bit-like, with whatever effects are placed on it.
“Women Around the World At Work” is a more straightforward new wave song. Female vocals take the lead, and they balance the Male, icy cold melodic monotone vocals. I could hear this played at Sex Dwarf. For some reason a sax is added right in the middle of the song, which initially feels odd, and is jarring. It has a repetitive but catchy chorus.
“Casualties of Glass” is delicate and quiet as its name suggests. A bit new agey and ethereal, it feels like a period piece. Like poetry sung to smooth jazz. After 2:45, the music picks up and a catchy 80’s pop/new wave song emerges. At this point it transitions from a cheesy 80’s sci-fi fantasy theme song to a Broadway show tune, with a dance routine done to the repetitive catch phrase “don’t lose hope.”
“Boy Without Filters” begins with a woodwind fade out, and an ambient Asian tundra mood is set. The song projects a sense of environment and discovery. The monotone male vocals guide the song, like poetry, from musical section to section. The music is stripped down with a basic dark, “Goonies-ish” tone. “Jets Seem Slower in London Skies” provokes exactly what the title says. There is a growing bass note held that, knowing the song title, audiocates a slow moving jet across the sky. This instrumental song is an “early morning wake up to the new day” song as I often like to describe. But it stays in that one eye-rubbing-awake moment for the entire song.

“This is the Ice Age” begins side two with a slowly rising combination of tinkling piano sections. Then a bongos drum beat and faster pace bass & guitars brings the song to life and really shakes you awake from the last three songs on the first side. The female vocals reminds me of the Daves, as the song feels very visual, like it is a performance art song. I am reminded of the Tom-Tom club from the little I know of them. It is a long song, enough time to zone out until the repetitive reiterating of the title brings you back and fades out.
“One Day in Paris” creeps up very slowly, and is beaten in capturing the listener’s attentions by Celtic like female vocals. The song is a delicate piano ballad, which again is very good at capturing that waking up moment in audio atmosphere.
“You Sold the Cottage” comes right back with a strong drum beat and a fast dancy bass line. It is a bit angular and synthetic, like Devo. Female vocals sing over the melody, and really carry the new wave jitteryness with them. The only bad thing is when the vocals digress from singing to speaking over the music. Otherwise this would be a great song.
“Three Hundred Years / Chemistry” ends the album with a quiet ambient serious thinking instrumental beginning. It turns into another cheesy instrumental sci-fi fantasy score. Half way through the synth picks up the pace (I’m guessing this is when “Chemistry” come in) and it sounds Asian in its execution. It is a fun and poppy melody, and is overlayed by a buzz-saw like electric guitar which follows the melody too. Female vocals accompany this song, sounding like Blondie. The vocals don’t give up, but the fade out, seeming premature, ends the album smoothly.

Stand Out Track: You Sold the Cottage

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