Record Review: M+M – The World Is A Ball DLX RM [part 3]

martha-the-muffins-someoneelsesshoescan7a[…continued from last post]
Following the ferocity of “Don’t Jump the Gun,” “Stuck on The Grid” only retreats a smidgen in its intensity. Here, Mark Gane took the mic with his understated everyman -under-pressure delivery. Dick Smith was as busy as ever on percussion here with a smoky, conga groove that served to contain a fractured guitar solo by Gane the equal of any by Adrian Belew on “Remain In Light” during the song’s middle eight. The phasing on Gane’s vocals at different points in the song culminate in his out of phase vocals ending the song on him alone when all of the other instruments drop out by its conclusion.

The mood lightens perceptibly as the album concludes. “Someone Else’s Shoes” was the third single and was spared no firepower when it came to guest musicians. Jerry Marotta appeared here… singing backing vocals! The arrangements here, as on the more sombre numbers on the album were fairly well hook-laden. The closing “As A Matter Of Fact” fit the role of album closer well. The program had been a well-balanced assembly of upbeat grooves cheek by jowel with feverish intensity and more subdued, yet emotionally dark numbers like “By the Waters of Babylon.” When “As A Matter of Fact” exits the stage, it feels like a benediction that’s been earned by passing through the crucible of “Don’t Jump the Gun” and “Stuck On The Grid.”

The bonus tracks were taken from the “Song In My Head” singles with “Riverine” being from the 7″ only. It was an instro number that fit perfectly in its intended home as it was not of a pice with the whole of the album. Tellingly, Dick Smith didn’t touch this one with his van full of percussion instruments. The nighttime guitar of Gane and either himself or Martha Johnson on the lowing synths mark it as a compelling mood piece that didn’t quite have a place for a lyric.

The 12″ remix of “Song In My Head” took a more traditional “old school” approach to the art of the 12″ inch as by 1986, things were starting to mutate in the practice. This still resembles the original song, albeit beefed up with even more percussion and looped bars, but the dub mix is fairly sedate; being more of an instrumental mix rather than a dub version in the classic sense. The 7″ edit was simply the song shorn of around 30 seconds. I just discovered while digging around that the Canadian “Someone Else’s Shoes” 7″ had a non-LP B-sideæ and early version of “Million Dollars” which would emerge fully formed on the “Modern Lullabye” album of 1992.

Overall, the album played as an exploration into the more intense sides of Talking Heads and Peter Gabriel. As I said earlier, in 1985 producer David Lord was mostly known for albums by The Korgis, Peter Gabriel’s fourth album [and “Plays Live”], the debut by Icicle Works, and the XTC album “The Big Express.” In point of fact, XTC were thanked in the liner notes, but this album is the furthest thing from the wheezing, baroque pop of “The Big Express.” Talking Heads had informed the band’s development from the earliest days, but the pleasure of listening to “The World Is A Ball” is hearing the imaginary connective tissue that linked Peter Gabriel’s third, fourth and fifth albums, unified in one spot.

“Babylon” “Grid” and “Gun” could have sat on III or IV. Some of the lighter moments here could have been issued on “So, ” which was recorded concurrently, just down the road in Bath, England, but not with Lord at the boards. Ironically, when Peter Gabriel made his big commercial move, he absconded with veteran M+M triple-threat producer Daniel Lanois! I say Martha + The Muffins got the better end of the deal. While Gabriel lost me with “So,” Martha + The Muffins made an album in the mid-80s that stands as my favorite of theirs. Their excursions into pop/dance territory were far more nimble than Gabriel and Lanois’ even as they managed to match the tenor some of Gabriel’s best, earlier work.

As I said, “The World Is A Ball” was redolent of the production style of the time, but it refused to pander and featured strong material and studied arrangements that ensured my  listening pleasure. It sat well especially with the two albums that Lord recorded with Icehouse [“Measure For Measure,” “Man Of Colours”] in that it was music of integrity that was aimed at the charts. That was clearly no mean feat, even though the 14 month recording schedule weighed heavily on the band, who were used to a much faster pace in the studio. At the end of the day, I can say at least to these ears, it sounded like time well spent.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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1 Response to Record Review: M+M – The World Is A Ball DLX RM [part 3]

  1. SimonH says:

    Was very pleased to come home the other day to a mailing envelope with a ‘Muffin Music’ label on it and either Mark or Martha’s signature on the customs slip!
    Am a big Muffins fan but this was an album I’d never owned or heard. On first listen it sounds great, stronger than I maybe expected.
    What an underrated band they are, each album is a distinct part of their artistic journey, but always maintains a commercial edge,even if that didn’t always yield hits. My favourite is probably Ice Age, but who knows that could change.
    Listening to Martha on TWIAB also reinforces her standing as one of the best singers of the new wave.
    If you haven’t bought Delicate, don’t hesitate.


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