If ‘Courting Strong’ was an ode to school and childhood, and follow-up ‘Blisters In The Pit Of My Heart’ an examination of finding your place in the world, then ‘Love Keeps Kicking’ can be considered as Martha’s missive to love, relationships and broken hearts. It’s also, unquestionably, the group’s most rounded and ambitious record to date, marrying their big themes and grand ideas with fully-fleshed characters that delight and enthral.
Of course, ‘Love Keeps Kicking’ is unmistakably Martha, conjuring up details of life from the Pity Me, Durham streets in humorous and heartfelt vignettes. It’s still all pastel shades and sepia tones, informed as much by 80s luminaries The Housemartins, Half Man Half Biscuit, and The Replacements as it is by today’s musical trends, but this stylistic choice has always made sense when set against Martha’s frames of reference. Here, for example, on the title track, they namedrop Huey Lewis and the News, and while it may be a throwaway line, it all adds up to make something that is a lovingly created homage to a different time – a love-letter, if you will – rather than a crude pastiche.
Much of this is also down to Martha’s consistently excellent storytelling. Just like the principal protagonist in ‘Mini Was a Preteen Arsonist’, ‘Love Keeps Kicking’ is funny, intelligent, charming and eloquent.
The song itself is a cracker, too. A story of an institutionalised pyromaniac, it’s wryly-observed and heartbreakingly tangible; a classic kitchen-sink drama set to a three-minute pop song and perfect literary fodder for the quartet.
It’s in these observations that Martha excel – as they always have. Few capture life on the fringes with such sensitivity or pathos, and when dealing with the messy emotion of love, Martha are equally sympathetic.
Once upon a time, The Weakerthans’ John K Samson sang about being in love with love and lousy poetry, and ‘Love Keeps Kicking’ feels like an empathetic consideration of this thought (although the poetry is not so lousy). This, combined with Martha’s innate talent for crafting delightful pop songs, means being lovelorn has never sounded so alluring.