Thursday, May 8, 2008

MARTHA AND THE MUFFINS - This Is the Ice Age



It's hard to describe exactly what makes canadian new wave band Martha and the Muffins' 1981 LP This Is the Ice Age so special, but it's one of those albums that definitely has a sound all its own and sticks with you from first listen.

This album gets a five star rating from me because it is completely effective in connecting beyond the surface level of the music listening experience and conjuring very distinct feelings. There is a sad, cold nostalgia to the music, even on the more upbeat numbers such as Women Around the World at Work and You Sold the Cottage.

The Muffins' Ice Age is a time without human warmth and connection. It is open, gray and lonely - feelings reflected particularly well on Swimming, Boy Without Filters, Jets Seem Slower in London's Skies and One Day in Paris. The arrangements are sparse and the vocals are stoic. The beautifully sad One Day in Paris is particularly nostalgic, with its singer yearning for a sense of completion in another time and place. It is unspecified and unimportant whether that place is in the past or future - all that matters is that it is away from the present "Ice Age."

Casualties of Glass is another highlight, and becomes especially effective near its end with the chant of "don't lose hope."

You sold the Cottage is the closest the album comes to being lighthearted, and at first seems out of place. Even so, its themes of looking back into the past and finding a sense of dissatisfaction works nicely with the LP's overall sense of cold nostalgia.

Also noteworthy are the lengthy title track and Three Hundred Years/Chemistry. The first is almost tribal, while the latter begins as a minimalist instrumental that bursts into a melodic tune that gives a true sense of completion to the album.

The music itself is not the only thing that makes this This Is the Ice Age so effective. The album's title relates perfectly to the mood of the music, as does its cover art. It is austere and desolate, intermingling a space seemingly devoid of any specific time and place with a space that is notably modern (illustrated by the tall office building in the distance). In this sense, the entire package conveys a modern "Ice Age."

This Is the Ice Age is ambient, introspective new wave art pop at its finest, and an essential record for any fan of the genre.

Check out a vinyl rip at Fantasmi Macchina.

In 2005 the album was released on CD, but already looks to be out of print. However, copies seem to be pretty easy to track down (see Amazon).

Click here for my recent post about another Martha and the Muffins release - the About Insomnia single.

9 comments:

Uncle E said...

I am very fond of "Echo Beach", but admit that I am not super familiar with a lot of their albums.

Franko6677 said...

You MUST hear this record then!

Cucumber Jones said...

Hey Frank - you'll be happy to know that the Muffins' 1983 album "Danseparc" has just been digitally remastered (with bonus tracks) and will be released by Cherry Red records in the UK in August 08. Stay tuned for a major announcement during the next few days....

Franko6677 said...

That is great news!

Anonymous said...

Here's the announcement for Martha and the Muffins' 25th Anniversary Edition of Danseparc. The album will be released by Cherry Red in Europe on August 4th. The full info is here -

www.noblepr.co.uk/Press_Releases/muffins/martha_and_the_muffins.htm

Franko6677 said...

Thank you for the update! Can't wait for this reissue.

Fantasmi said...

Thanx !!

Love this blog!!

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with your critique Frank... There's something incredibly mature about the composing, lyrics, rhythms... Sometimes it's almost eerie how some of the riffs... saxes, syths haunt you... There are very few albums that get me completely jazzed up when I listen to them but this is one. The transition in Casualties is not only unexpected but works so well it's almost surprising = it shouldn't work but somehow it does. THAT's artistry. I've been hunting it down in pieces (mp3s) for years and now it's back in my stable (I had it on vinyl) my collection seems more complete.

Anonymous said...

Jets Seem Slower In London's Skies:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kwC0fQtmw60