Thursday, March 10, 2005

Martha, Muffins, Singles That Are Different

Some fairly exciting news on the horizon, coming down from Canada. Word at the Martha and The Muffins website (current news section) is that a CD release of This Is The Ice Age will be (finally, finally, finally) coming out this spring. It's been a long wait.

Despite the cutesy name, Martha and the Muffins were a pretty neat and artsy new wave band who had a hit of sorts with a song called Echo Beach back in the 80's. They also cause all sorts of confusion due to the sometime presence of a Tim Gane, no relation to the guy from Stereolab.

This Is The Ice Age is, by a reasonably general consensus, their best album. Think the artier side of new wave with a good dose of Brian Eno and you're in the right territory. Most of their songs were sung by a Martha, but here's a very nice track called Swimming that's sung by Mark Gane instead.

One of my favorite songs of theirs was written by the less prolific Martha in the band, Martha Ladly. Conveniently, this web site has done a "where is she now" and it's pretty interesting, especially if you're a Factory Records fanatic. Martha Ladly, before leaving the band, wrote an atypical but nonetheless wonderful track called Was Ezo that appears on an album called Trance and Dance.

Interestingly, the 7" single version has a different mix, and I hate to tell you this but I like it much better. The differences are subtle, but let's just say that the single version is more psych-rock and the album version is more brittle new wave. Even more interesting, given the false Stereolab connection, the lead up to the chorus of Was Ezo sounds an awful lot like Stereolab. Very strange! Here's the single version.

On the subject of 7" singles with different mixes than the album version, let's talk about Daughters Of Albion.

I've written about them a few times. In my opinion, their self-titled album is one of the best not-on-CD treasures of the 60's. Call it an American (specifically Californian) reimagining of Seargent Pepper, with top notch pop songwriting, very interesting production and an epic, multi-part final song (1968) that rivals A Day In The Life for "wow" factor, though it lacks Day's gravitas.

Kind of interesting to see what happens when you subtract an element. There's a 7" single that contains two songs that also appear on the album, Well Wired and Story of Sad. The album version of Well Wired sounds like it was mixed by someone who had never seen a mixing board before, and it's just amazing. Here's Well Wired from the album.

The 7" version, meanwhile, is mixed much more normally. And it's nowhere near as good. I wouldn't have predicted that, but hearing is believing. Here's the 7" version of Well Wired (my vinyl is noisy for the first 20-30 seconds, sorry).

Swimming by Martha & The Muffins
Was Ezo by Martha & The Muffins
Well Wired (album track) by Daughters of Albion
Well Wired (single track) by Daughters of Albion
1968 by Daughters of Albion

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