Did you know there was once a flourishing post-punk music scene on Queen Street West in Toronto? Yes, I laughed too, but the fact is that many important acts had their roots there, including the Cowboy Junkies and Blue Rodeo. It also produced the undisputed darlings of the Canadian new wave scene. Though you might not recognize them by name, Martha and the Muffins are famous for their understated yet incredibly catchy tune called “Echo Beach” which cracked the top ten in Canada and the UK and is difficult to get out of your head once you’ve heard it. It is a simple song and charming in its banality, dealing with a subject which practically everyone listening to the radio can relate to: some office drone who hates their job is dreaming about getting away for the weekend to relax at Echo Beach, which is a roundabout reference to Lake Ontario of course. Let me tell you, in real life nobody ever swims there. It’s full of radiation and plastic bags and three eyed fish. But it’s still a great song.
One-hit wonders they’re not: they produced eight albums in twelve years and were influential in the way pop music developed over the course of the 80s decade. They’re often referenced as the Canadian version of Blondie, but I must admit that I like them better. Though their sound is full of tinkling synthesizers and strange saxophones, they are somehow unburdened by the pretension and posturing of other post-punk bands playing in the same style at the time. Their vocals are stripped down, direct, and unassuming. I could listen to them for hours on end without getting tired or worn down by them. The music is very danceable, but in a calm and chilled-out sort of way. And I don’t think there’s any other band cool enough to write a song about the greatest snack food combination of Canadian cuisine. Interestingly, there’s a British soap opera called Echo Beach which debuted this year. I guess that’s another sign that the 80s will never die.
Martha and the Muffins - Echo Beach (Mp3)
Martha and the Muffins - Paint By Number Heart (Mp3)
Martha and the Muffins - Terminal Twilight (Mp3)
Martha and the Muffins - Hide and Seek (Mp3)
Martha and the Muffins - Cheesies and Gum (Mp3)