Tuesday, October 14, 2008

TVD's Daily Wax | "It Came From the North"

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)

8 comments:

matt said...

Lots of good Canadian stuff, for sure - you mentioned Blue Rodeo and Cowboy Junkies - two of my faves...also dug the Payolas stuff..

Anonymous said...

The Guthries 1st album is an alt country classic

Uncle E said...

Two underrated talents from the 80's that deserved better: The wonderful Blue Peter (who's lead singer, Paul Humphries, worked at the world famous "Sam The Record Man" on Yonge St in Toronto) and Canada's answer to the Ramones, Teenage Head. Many many more.

dickvandyke said...

Interesting stuff UG. Many thanks.

Urban Gypsy said...

Uncle E, this morning I woke up to the CBC's announcement that the lead singer of Teenage Head has passed away! RIP Frankie Venom :(

Anonymous said...

"...my job is very boring, I'm an office clerk" from "Echo Beach" rang true for me back in the early '80s, when I spent two summers working as a file clerk at a NYC company. I used to sing along to "Echo Beach," replacing "office clerk" with "file clerk." Perfect.

Ronnie said...

There is a new Martha and the Muffins album coming out very soon,I hear Nov, Dec...check their web site

Ramya J said...

You know, this is not something I know much about, but you make me see Canada & Toronto with new eyes. I love reading this stuff (with a historian's eye)!