Monday, February 17, 2014

M+M - Mystery Walk

With the release of their 1984 album Mystery Walk, the Canadian new-wave band Martha and the Muffins officially switched over to the name of M + M. The band was now a duo of Martha Johnson (guitar, keyboards and vocals), and Mark Gane (guitar, keyboards and vocals) along with a number of studio musicians. It spent four weeks on the US Billboard Album chart, peaking at number 163 (their highest US showing ever). In their native Canada, it went to number 56.

Side one starts with “Black Stations/White Stations”, a song that speaks to the racial segregation of music on the radio back in the early 80‘s. It features a funky bass groove, a danceable beat, and the powerful horns of the Brecker brothers (Randy and Michael). As the first single, it went to number 63 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 46 in the UK, number 26 in Canada, and number 2 on the US Billboard Dance chart.

The second single “Cooling the Medium” stalled at number 72 in Canada but climbed to number 34 on the US Billboard Dance chart. Of the two singles, I remember this mid-tempo tune a bit better; the chorus in particular is very familiar. Having gone to school in Rochester, NY, we often heard music that crossed over from the northern borders. Thus, it was very likely I would have heard this one around campus or the video airing on MTV.

“Come Out and Dance” is next.

“I Start to Stop” has a very introspective tone to it. The vocals are breathy as well as shortly clipped.

“Big Trees” was the B-side to the second single.

Side two begins with the up-tempo rhythms of “In Between Sleep and Reason”.

“Garden in the Sky” has an ethereal vibe that takes the listener off into a dream-like state.

“Nation of Followers” has a little bit of a Heaven 17 sound to it, from both the keyboard-centric music and Gane’s vocals on this social commentary.

“Alibi Room” gives me that sense of deception and infidelity. The saxophone adds to that whole secretive sound.

The album closer was “Rhythm of Life”.

Mystery Walk is one of those records from the 80’s that faded into the sands of time. If it weren’t for a number of folks over on YouTube, I would have a hard time finding any of these tracks to listen to for this review. Admittedly, I was not a huge Martha and the Muffins fan so much of this album passed me by back in 1984. Still, I was intrigued by what I heard here.

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