E.P. REVIEW: Smoking Martha

EPCOVER Smoking Martha are a five-piece rock band hailing from the Brisbane and Gold Coast area of Australia. They were formed by feisty lead singer Tasha D and guitarist Mick Broome through their shared love of rock ‘n roll. After completing their line-up, they performed all over Australia and won the popular vote to support legendary US group Everclear. They are now ready for the world stage with the release of this eponymous 5-track E.P.

Produced superbly by Powderfinger’s Ian Haug, the song Sweet As Honey has already been released as a single and received airplay on Australian and US radio. It’s a great introduction to the Smoking Martha sound; starting with distorted, fuzzy bass and raw sounding drums, Tasha D’s sultry voice then grabs your attention.

Female fronted rock groups are few and far between, mainly as it takes a powerful voice to compete with a wall of electric guitars. This poses no problem for Tasha D; her throaty, rasping vocals and wide range enable her to dominate the anthemic raucous chorus, backed by a catchy guitar riff guaranteed to get your head nodding involuntarily.

Even if you weren’t blown away by Sweet As Honey as I was, you will be by All Lit Up, which turns the amps up to eleven and proceeds at a lightning pace. Starting with another killer guitar riff, it storms into the verse then finds another gear for the raging chorus, with Tasha D howling “I’m on my knees now…all lit up“, as the band go hell for leather. I enjoyed the moody middle section which builds to a tumultuous climax, leading to a final chorus. It is my personal favourite of the five tracks here.

Fake Promises continues the consistently high-class songwriting and displays their innate understanding of how to build a track, layering their riffs gradually and making excellent use of dynamics. After the second chorus a short half-time section leads into a blistering guitar solo, all the more effective because not every song contains one, a complaint often levelled at classic rock bands who overused them.

The momentum and energy carries on with Bad Choices, which is another excellent hybrid of classic and modern rock styles. It features a nice ascending guitar line at the start, then on the punch-the-air chorus we can hear a rolling Sweet Child O’ Mine-style riff in the background, which works well with the vocal melody. Loved the femme fatale line “I’m too bad for you to love….”, plus the drop-out section where we just hear Tasha D’s vocals is very effective as a dynamic.

Heavy Heart is a big contrast to the other tracks, a soulful, moody and emotive slow burner of a song. It’s the closest they come to a standard ballad, with some surprisingly poetic lyrics: “From the stars in the sky to the dust at your feet…”. Tasha delivers a passionate and intense vocal performance with some unexpectedly delicate and intricate guitar lines showing this band is far more than just supercharged rock ‘n roll.

Overall, this is a formidable start to this band’s musical output and has already made a strong impact, even beyond their native country. With flawless production, consistently strong songs and few competitors in their genre, (how many good female-fronted rock bands can you think of out there, right now?) they will find it easier to find a niche and media angle than most bands. I think they could become the biggest band to come out of Australia since INXS.

 

Alex Faulkner

Verdict: 9 out of 10

 

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