Record Review: M+M – The World Is A Ball DLX RM [part 1]

Muffin Music | CAN | CD | 2017 | ARK 8

Muffin Music | CAN | CD | 2017 | ARK 8

M + M [Martha + The Muffins] – The World is A Ball DLX RM Can CD [2017]

  1. The World Is A Ball
  2. I Watch • I Wait
  3. Watching The Boys Fall Down
  4. Only You
  5. By The Waters Of Babylon
  6. Song In My Head
  7. Don’t Jump The Gun
  8. Stuck On The Grid
  9. Someone Else’s Shoes
  10. As A Matter Of Fact
  11. Riverine
  12. Song In My Head [dance mix]
  13. Song In My Head [dub mix]
  14. Song In My Head [single mix]

As I mentioned a while back, this was an album that I have been waiting for over 30 years for the CD version of. This was one of those albums from the early days of the CD format and few but the top sellers of the day were assured access to the means of CD production right up front. Everyone else had to prove their case in the marketplace. The sixth album by Martha + The Muffins [rebranded by this time to M+M] was one such album. It came out in 1986. When failed to see a CD within two years, I bought an increasingly rare vinyl LP of “The World Is A Ball.” I bought the German pressing of the LP. German pressiings were second best to Japanese, back in the day, and the back of it showed an LP/cassette/CD icon near the bar code and the CD icon tellingly had no catalog number next to it. Given that by 1988 I was buying many German CDs of titles that existed nowhere else in the world on the CD format, I simply had to resolve myself to a wait for this title on CD.

<insert 30 year span>

It was sometime in the early 90s that I actually played my LP to make a cassette of it for car listening. I was rewarded with what became my favorite Martha + The Muffins album. It opened with a bang with the vivacious title track and the vibe of the album was of a piece with the previous two albums by the band. The line that cut through “Danseparc” and “Mystery Walk”  to “The World Is A Ball” incorporated greater rhythmic complexity and therefore more danceability than the simpler New Wave pop with which the band had first made their name in 1980. When I bought “Danseparc,” I could feel the influence of what felt like Talking Heads and their journey into funk that was also informing the increasingly dancable, yet arty and angular Muffins. “Mystery Walk” had a big hit with the incredible “Black Stations White Stations” and by that time, Talking Heads were making pastiche country music to my declining interest. This had become the band to watch…and listen to.

“The World is A Ball” shoed that the band’s M.O. this time was more upbeat than most of the subdued “Mystery Walk” and that the shiny new PPG Wave synths were equally matched by slap bass and often dense layers of conga-laden percussion; a significant holdover from “Black Stations White Stations.” The work was perfectly redolent of its ’85-’86 production zeitgeist, but I have to state that the album nimbly sidesteps all of the potential pitfalls implicit in that [common of the time] approach. This was done by taking great care in arranging the strong material. Was there ever a time such as ’83-’88 that produced such identikit records that are a chore now to slog through? Not this one!

The following track [“I Watch • I Wait”] opted for a pull back from the ebullient opener to something a little more sombre and redolent of much of “Mystery Walk.” The gentle African lilt of the mood piece maintained a consistent, deliberate pace. The shimmering glissandos of synth that appeared near the song’s end, perfectly echoed the rain referenced in the song’s chorus. Then, the track used a gambit I can’t remember hearing elsewhere. The song’s rhythm bed continued apace until the point occurred where all of a sudden, the next song had already begun – using the identical rhythm track! “Watching The Boys Fall Down” staked a claim for its individuality at the point where vocalist Martha Johnson entered the song and the realization that this was finally another song entirely became apparent. Where this song differed was in the stormier emotions sketched in by the number. The music rose in intensity as the song ended on a cold note.

Next: …Lord Knows

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | media design • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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