I came across SMOKING MARTHA a few years ago when writing for another magazine. I reviewed In Deep, their latest release at the time, and remember being impressed with their impressive portfolio of sounds. They are due to release their third studio album Universe and I am instantly reminded why I was drawn to them in the first instance.
One of the things I highly praised on their previous release was their versatile selection of songs, each tinged with a signature flavour that SMOKING MARTHA have created. This statement is upheld by the solid songs on Universe. It’s due to this strong variety of tracks that this album has earned one of my rare track by track reviews.
It opens brilliantly with Good Girls. There is a vintage and retro feeling within this song that will bring out the nostalgia, yet it still has this fresh, new sound that will stand the test of time. Think if BLONDIE and NO DOUBT had conceived a love child, this should give you an idea of their sound.
The melody of Only Love is fantastic. Tasha D’s smoky vocals go well against the bouncy beats and uplifting riffs. It’s a great earworm as in you only need to read the title and it’s in your head for days on end.
I Tried brings RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS to mind, particularly in terms of the funky yet soaring guitar work. The songs that come to mind are Californication and The Zephyr Song. You can tell the influences are there but it’s not so obvious, the song still has its own flavour.
The moment Wonderful Happiness plays, you instantly feel that warmth and you find yourself forgetting your troubles. Due the song’s genius of including a section to mosh to and another where the lighters come out, this will be a favourite at live shows.
The moment you press play on Liquid Sunshine, you are instantly reminded of those hazy summer days in the fields celebrating with your friends. These celebrations carry on into the night. Everything from the smooth guitar solo to Tasha’s beautiful vocals screams summer festival anthem.
I didn’t realise how much I missed a solid bluesy rock track until Intermission played. The smoky tones in this track are fantastic and will ensure this track will stand the test of time. It’s reminiscent of the rise of alternative rock in the early nineties whilst staying fresh.
Neon Lights takes a completely turn but works in the same principle as Intermission in you are completely immersed. This is this the track Gwen Stefani wish she had written.
BLUE ÖYSTER CULT’s Don’t Fear The Reaper came to mind for the duration of Ghost. This was mostly down to the similar classic sounding riffs in the background and the smooth beats. It’s noticeable enough to spot but not so blatant that it’s an exact replica. SMOKING MARTHA do well to achieve that balance there.
There is a western type feel at the beginning of It’s A Lie, CLUTCH song Son Of Virginia came to mind. Ever come across a song that allows you to fully immerse and not think of anything else? It’s A Lie easily fits into that category. That’s down to the impeccable mix of raw distortion mixed and airy. The chorus of “It’s A Lie, It’s A Lie, It’s A Lie” will be the line the eager fans chant back.
I have one word for the melody of In The Shadows, infectious. Once you start listening, you can’t get enough, and you want more. It’s enough to stop you in your tracks and absorb every detail.
From first few notes, you can tell instantly that Wild & Free lives up to its name. Like Liquid Sunshine, you are taken back to those summer days but the difference here is you have that enhanced feeling of freedom.
The title track is vast sounding and mind-blowing showing the title is appropriate for this song. A perfect ending to a great album.
Universe is appropriately titled for this upcoming record as the solid music within blows your mind. This is proof that SMOKING MARTHA are rising stars in hard rock and ones to look out for.
Words: Lotty Whittingham
Universe will be available 3rd December 2021.
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