Earlier this year Australian rockers Smoking Martha teased us with Liquid Sunshine then taunted us with Wild and Free, two singles which sparked an over eager anticipation here for the band’s new album. Now just unveiled, Universe has proved that their creative baiting was just an appetiser for one truly rousing exploit more than cementing the Brisbane hailing band as one striking proposition.
Since releasing their first EP back in 2014, Smoking Martha has been on a fine reputation gathering ascent already marked by the release of their acclaimed 2017 debut album In Deep and a stage presence taking in the sharing of stages with the likes of Sisters Of Mercy, Everclear, Fuel, Uriah Heep, Seether, Cherie Currie, Trapt, Bernie Torme, Wolfmother, Hardcore Superstar, Saxon, Thunder, Saliva, P.O.D, and many more as well as numerous festival spots at home and more recently the UK.
Universe is a notable new strep in their rise, a release bred on greater maturity in the band’s songwriting, fertility in their imagination, and almost mischievous enterprise in their sound. It marries melody and power, seduction and high voltage trespass in its collection of boldly woven tracks and a sound embracing diversity in its flavouring and invention.
It is fair to say that Universe straight away had us hook, line, and sinker with opener Good Girls, it emerging one of our favourite songs of the year. Immediately a crescendo of rhythms were manipulating instincts and appetite, drummer Jordy Poynter orchestrating the incitement with dextrous prowess before grooves, wired hooks and Tasha D’s ever magnetic tones step forth. Settling into a temptress of a passage, the track only reinforced its claim on full attention, further uproars of that initial untethered tempting sparking a tempest of energy and addiction for gorgeous and inescapable incitement.
Only Love follows, striding in with a confident air and a web of invitation spun by guitarist Mick Broome. At times it is a prowling beast and in other moments a full on romance of sound led by Tasha’s just as deft tones. With the bass of Matty Mulheran adding a darker edge to the incitement, the track is ablaze with the throes of melodic, alternative and punk rock; a variety in the band’s sound further imagined within the calmer but no less spirited waters of I Tried. A plaintive call of intimacy and passion, the song similarly burns as an individual fire of enterprise and grooved wired temptation.
Even in its instantly bubbly character there is a smouldering quality to next up Wonderful Happiness, a thoughtful and seductive essence even when its flames ignite. It is an echo of the same quality in Tasha’s riveting vocals, her tones siren-esque with the intensity of unbridled passion always poised to free itself. The song itself is another which never settles in the expected much as its successor, Liquid Sunshine. An initial flare of sound settles as the song emerges with a contemplative guitar melody, respectful rhythms and Tasha’s simmering emotion laden thoughts. Eventual eruption is inevitable though and only brings greater prowess and intensity to the creative romance.
The duskily humid low key captivation of Intermission simply enthralled before Neon Lights uncaged it’s contagious shuffle; a rhythmic skiffle courted by the acoustic grace of guitars and the just as radiant call of voice with in turn Ghost bearing an almost sinister air and enterprise for matching success. There is an ethereal hue to the song which shadows its earthier dramas and angst, Smoking Martha again revealing the nimble and persuasive richness of theirsongwriting.
The blues rock cultured, classic rock strung It’s A Lie provided the next highly addictive moment in so many, its chorus an enslavement of participation to that already offered by swinging hips with In The Shadows springing its pyre of sonic heat and masterful dynamics with matching incisive and resourceful, indeed cunning invention. The track is almost rapturous in its melodic intensity and yet one more major highlight to stand side by side with Wild And Free, a song bursting in on an eddy of grooves and rhythmic esurience to weave a landscape of thoughtful control and pugnacious urgency cored by the delicious dark grumbling snarl of Mulheran ‘s bass.
With the album’s title track bringing things to a beguiling close, the song a hypnotic serenade bearing joyous rapture, Universe emerged as one irresistible and stirring encounter. From its first to last breath, the album was pure inspiriting pleasure with Smoking Martha climbing more than a few rungs up that ladder of craft and attention.
Universe is out now via Xelon Entertainment.
Pete RingMaster 16/12/2021
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