The In Deep album from Smoking Martha back in 2018 (and in RAMzine Issue 20) was greeted with enthusiasm and summed up with the words: “a thoroughly enjoyable album of rock peppered with pop, pomp and punk”. Happily, on the new album, Universe, I can report that things have only got better and heavier! The Aussies have really hit a seam of quality with twelve songs that are short, sharp and shockingly good punk pop-rock. (Only one track breaks the four-minute barrier.)
The lead track, ‘Good Girls’, starts with a drum intro that will have you singing “I said a hey hey hey yeah” before it evolves into a simply genius heavy pop song with fragile yet fractious vocals… a great start. ‘Only Love’ packs more into three minutes than you’d believe possible with heavy riffs, melodies and a chorus to fall in love with.
‘Intermission’ is just that with only guitar and vocals giving you a warm hug. ‘Neon Lights’ is a surprising countrified acoustic delight. ‘In The Shadows’ and ‘Ghost’ show the heavier approach without sacrificing the harmonies and melodies. The title track is another surprise as the band embrace layered acoustic, almost eastern or even folkish structures all wrapped up so neatly with Tasha’s impassioned vocals.
All in all, this is a fine album of succinct, varied and original rock songs that can caress, snarl and bite with equal skill. It may not be a ‘traditional’ rock album but it shows how Smoking Martha have grown and evolved their own sound.
Universe is out now via Xelon Entertainment.