The Lexington – Friday 8th January
A brief glance at Google tells you all you need to know about the most popular baby names of 2016 (Atticus and Charlotte, if you’re curious, although I can’t vouch for the accuracy of these wild claims). Whoever compiles these things however, didn’t count on this being the year that your favourite band unleash their second album upon an unsuspecting public and, consequently, win the hearts of a smitten nation. A handful of new tracks are revealed tonight, so euphoric on first listen they will prompt you to reassess your record collection, reassess your life and promise to name your firstborn after the band before you that has changed your life. Expect a rise in parents calling their kids Martha before the year is out, I guarantee it.
Of course, we’re primarily gathered to celebrate what Fortuna Pop has been accomplishing for twenty years with minimal fuss; plucking the finest purveyors of indie pop from relative obscurity and allowing a wider audience to swoon over them. Milky Wimpshake are a band that seemingly fit the bill, providing the same dependable soundtrack they have lovingly refined over three decades. It’s a solid if unremarkable half an hour. If Wimpshake count as old timers, Bleurgh, a Blur covers band that we didn’t realise we needed, are very much the new kids on the block. Despite a slight whiff of drunken karaoke, their debut performance certainly shouldn’t be their last (the offer to play weddings, funerals and bah mitzvahs is proposed early on), especially if they continue to splice their set with rarer tracks such as ‘Badhead’ in future.
The pace is so breakneck it’s difficult to gather your thoughts between tracks.
If what’s come before has drawn slightly muted response from a sold out crowd, Martha threaten to incite a riot. From the jaw-dropping, anthemic sensibilities of ‘Chekov’s Hangnail’ to the bubblegum pop of ‘Bubble In My Bloodstream’s final third slalom, the pace is so breakneck it’s difficult to gather your thoughts between tracks. There’s a few seconds to snatch some vital breaths from above the sweltering throng before guitars screech into full voice again and you’re fortifying yourself for another singalong.
And it’s vocally where Martha excel, the four-tiered arrangement working far better live than expected, every harmony overlapping a playful guitar riff or the feverishly enthusiastic contribution from a doting crowd. Despite their initial reluctance, the band are cajoled into returning to the stage for an encore, and then a second, albeit via shouted requests for older favourites like ‘Gretna Green’, once it becomes clear we’re not leaving.
A country-conquering second album may have seemed a little far-fetched before tonight yet, amongst the raised fists and triumphant scrums of lyrical devotion, there is a palpable sense that Martha make anything possible.