Smoking Martha – ‘In Deep’   1 comment

Brisbane/Gold Coast based band Smoking Martha release their debut album, ‘In Deep’, through Bad Reputation Records, on November 9th, 2018. The alt rockers are confirmed to perform a succession of UK gigs, including Hard Rock Hell Festival, in collaboration with Wrecking Crew Tour Agency.

‘In Deep’ is currently making a big splash amongst the UK rock media, for its variety and versatility. Produced and recorded, by Matthew Bartlem (Matt Corby, Dead Letter Circus), at Loose Stone Studios, ‘ID’ (boasting 5 bonus tracks), has so far been toured alongside bands such as Wolfmother, Thunder, Seether, Hardcore Superstar, Fuel, Everclear, P.O.D., Cherie Currie (The Runaways), etc. Smoking Martha go from strength to strength, in Australia and beyond.

So Lonely – Tight, plucky riff intro, onto a typically alt atmosphere, evoking visuals of homely busy streets, thronging with people, with intermingling lives. It’s a little bit flat and samey, tone-wise, but the rhythm’s good and there’s a sense of anticipation and promise in the sound.

Say You’re Mine – Great vibrant opening! Much more uplifting and still as plucky. He really makes the most of those riffs and the drums are fittingly laid-back, suiting the atmosphere. Intensifying slightly, towards the end, it’s still a bit repetitive, but there’s an audible life about it, which somehow inspires hope.

To The Stars – Similar riff sound intro’s again, with that same busy atmosphere of crowded streets and mixed aspirations. There’s a gradual vocal fade in and a bluesy sound to the vocals, a decent sound in itself, but the vocals are held back way too much and the accompaniments are dominating. It needs some levelling, to make the most of that obvious vocal potential.

Ebb Of The Tide – Slightly changing the mood now, to a more fluid, movable scene. Still, the vocals aren’t present or audible enough. There’s a clear skill to the motion between tones and moods and the blues angle really comes out here, particularly through the riffs, but those vocals are almost hidden.

One Night – Good drum intro, relaxed and easy, sliding in with the riffs, showing promise, in themselves, with that effortless technique they sport. Vocals still disguised, though, as if performing from behind a screen. That’s frustrating, when more volume would add so much more.

Baby Let Me Go – Downbeat thread opening here. The melody’s actually quite beautiful and emotionally performed, in itself, though if only those vocals would come out of the shadows, the picture could be completed. There’s an unmistakable poignancy in the vocals, well capable of moving a crowd, but not enough is being made/heard of them, wasting the track’s potential.

Follow – A denser, heavier riff intro now, creating a much more upbeat mood. It’s a nice comfortable sound, with a hardened blues edge. Smoothness flows through it, well timed, suitably paced and it’s very aurally picturesque. Great job with those instrumentals. They really gnaw at you, in a very welcome sense. Vocals slightly more audible here and of what can be heard, the No Doubt echoes are clear, showing the true potential of that voice.

Find A Way – Opening in a much more explosive, excoriating way, the blues element takes centre stage and it’s a very welcome sound. Once more, that tightly plucky riff sound enters, combining with the harder, heavier impressions and all conveyed so smoothly, with a tasty bit of bottleneck in there. Just a shame there are barely any audible vocals to join it.

What’s Her Name? – Quick paced drum intro, with high vibe riffs in rapid succession. Keeping up a great momentum, with those delicious slide riffs, all the way through to the end and closing on a precisely timed drum hit. Instrumentally, it’s a hit. The vocals are, as ever, inexplicably elusive, though. Hard to review their quality, when they hide, in that manner.

Stranger Things – Precision drum hit and strong riffage intro’s. Employing the loud/quiet/loud tactic and working it well. The chase effect does it justice too and there’s certainly plenty of atmosphere, depicting the changing feelings, moods and events clearly. Yet again, the vocals seem to have left the building, but the song’s saved by the charged atmospheric accompaniments.

All Lit Up – (Bonus Demo) – Crackling into life, but fizzling out, just as quickly, this one seems to come and go and though it’s well played, there’s a vague quality about it, which struggles to retain attention. A bit bland.

Bad Choices – (Bonus Demo) – A sharper note to this one, echoing the intro to Placebo’s ‘Every You, Every Me’. (A good thing, in my book). Now the vocals strive to come through more, but are still hardly audible. Mic check, perhaps? Only at the last fence does the vocal sound make itself more clearly heard and as before, it’s a great sound, with a lot going for it, but it’s just way too quiet.

Fake Promises – (Bonus Demo) – Another raw riff explosion introing. Here, the vocals are just about audible, sooner, but still sound like they’re in constant fade-out mode. It’s time those mic levels were checked. Instrumentally, it’s a flawless, impressive performance, as smooth as ever and fairly catchy, too. It’d just be good to hear the vocals properly.

Heavy Heart – (Bonus Demo) – Ooh, you can feel the heavy heart immediately, in that intro! Well delivered, with strong emotion and especially powerful, in the riffs, even leaning towards The Cranberries ‘I Still Do’, in parts – no easy essence to capture, so that deserves credit. Gaining in strength, as it goes along, whilst remaining true to the ebb and flow necessary for a track of this nature. This is likely to win the memorability card, for its standout features.

Sweet As Honey – (Bonus Demo) – Taking the beat back up a bit, in an improvisation style easy laid-back number, echoing the strains of early classic blues rockers, such as ‘Tobacco Road’ and Ram Jam’s ‘Black Betty’. A brief finale, with some fine enough guitar licks to serve it well.

Overall – In and of itself, ‘In Deep’ is a good enough album, with a wealth of very decent, listenable instrumentals. It’s just a pity the vocals are consistently so vaguely audible as to create the impression it’s an entirely instrumental production. (No slight against pure instrumentals, many of which are stunning performances). When marketed as a full band/vocal led production, though, the cruciality of vocal clarity can’t be overemphasised. From the brief snatches of vague vocal audibility, it’s obvious there’s a great deal of skill inherent and it’s a very pleasant sound, with stacks of potential. Ultimately, a thorough sound check would have saved this, in a collective context, but given the vocal inaudibility, the final outcome’s based on the accompaniments and overall quality.

7/10 *******

For fans of No Doubt, Southern blues, Placebo, The Cranberries.

Official music video for ‘What’s Her Name?’ –

Posted October 10, 2018 by jennytate in Uncategorized

One response to “Smoking Martha – ‘In Deep’

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  1. Thanks for this post. I definitely agree with what you are saying.

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