The indie-pop band Martha gelled in 2011 in a place called Pity Me — seriously.
Pity Me is a suburban village of Durham, in the North East of England. The Oxford Dictionary of British Names states it’s: “a whimsical name bestowed in the 19th century on a place considered desolate, exposed or difficult to cultivate.” Without touching on its location in England, its so-called misery or its ability to grow tomatoes, the band is giving the tiny town a fresh identity.
Martha’s new album, “Courting Strong,” is loaded with biting punk-rock flavor. In a press release, Martha also credits Scandinavian anarcho noir with helping craft their sound. But while they’ve also been labeled as pop-punk, “Courting Strong” tends to camp out near the indie-DIY style of music.
There’s no one named Martha– just Naomi Griffin on bass and vocals, her brother, Nathan Griffin, on drums and vocals, J. Cairns on guitar and vocals, and Daniel Ellis on guitars and vocals. According to the press release, the moniker appears to be attributed to the name of the last Passenger pigeon.
It’s got quick hits of punk tales and visceral titles like “Gin and Listerine,” “Bubble in my Bloodstream” and “Dust, Juice, Bones & Hair,” which doesn’t sound as grave as you might think. Heavy bass hooks tangle with bright guitar; the drummer lends a solid presence throughout. All four members offer vocals that eagerly intertwine.
The band offers the right mix of youthful exuberance while adding that necessary touch of boredom, of people frantic to just get out and start life. According to Nathan, “the overarching theme of the album is growing up weird.” Isn’t that how most teens feel anyway?
The title “Courting Strong” is from the song “Gin and Listerine” and can sometimes describe the stage where couples start to get really serious.
Their first single is “1997, Passing in the Hallway,” and relinquishes the days of young love swirling among boring subjects at study hall.
“I’ve been so anemic since you broke the double helix in my heart,” sings Naomi, later adding, “I promise that I’m worthy of your attention, after school, there’s a pub across the street…” Its infectious jumpy chorus is a snug fit for small venues packed with sweaty teens.
When so many bands these days meet up, record, then lose the spark, Martha has a chemistry and cohesiveness that brings the glowing promise of longevity.
“Courting Strong” is due out May 26 on Fortuna Pop! records. Listen to “1997, Passing in the Hallway.”