THIS year is a busy one for albums…
and it still seems that the solo artist is taking the biggest chunk of the pie. By that, I mean they are more prevalent and it seems, when it comes to variation, they are leading. I think women are producing the finest albums of 2019 and, in the case of Madonnatron…that is definitely true. I do love the fact that there are some terrific young bands emerging that are adding something exciting and fresh to the scene. I am a big fan of bands like Amyl and The Sniffers (from Australia) and there is something wonderful happening with Brighton’s YONAKA – both bands are female-fronted but they are very different in terms of style and intention. I do think the days of male bands ruling have disappeared and I doubt we will ever see that rise again. The past few years have shown some evolution and change and, in terms of who you need to watch out for, I would recommend Madonnatron. They come from humble backgrounds but, with determination and a finger raised to convention, they are a bright and explosive force. They can switch from the funny and cutting but then go in with something unexpected and hugely forceful. Their emotional palette is varied and vast and their performances, live and on record, are tight and wonderful. The band are heading around the country and bring their new album to the people.
Check out their website and social media channels for details but, trust me, you will want to see them lay down their songs from the stage. I will come to their latest album later but, for a bit, let’s take it back a couple of years back. Madonnatron have been on the scene for a few years now and, through grit and a unique style, they have seen their fanbase grow. Back in 2017, they unleashed their eponymous debut album. The South London four-piece impressed critics and, as this review from The Quietus shows, they make one hell of a lovely racket:
“Madonnatron have been going for a couple of years, after forming apparently quite haphazardly at venues and nights including Hank Dog's Easycome in Peckham and (of course) The Windmill in Brixton. When Liam May at Trashmouth first talked about making an album, they told him, “We only have five songs and we can't really play.” Lias Saoudi from Fat White Family has described their early gigs as “like listening to a kitchen falling apart in an earthquake,” and when I saw them last year they were still pleasingly shonky. They haven't become polished professionals since then, thank god. They are winging it. It is great, almost a rock & roll cliche joy, to have a bunch of chancers making music as good as this, especially when it's a gang of women who are clearly having a brilliant time.
All of a piece, the songs on this album belong together. Madonnatron are in the right place, too, signed to Trashmouth and produced by Liam May (who also worked on the submerged-unconscious vocals of Fat White Family's Songs For Our Mothers), and based in south London, part of a sprawling gang that includes Fat White Family, The Moonlandingz, No Friendz and Meatraffle. Like a lot of that gang, they are funny and deadly serious, chaotic and fully focussed, and making ace records”.
The fact Madonnatron had been around for a few years and had managed to hone their songs resulted in this incredible debut. The band’s live flair and sense of the unpredictable came through in their debut and the fact they managed to balance the professional with live-sounding gained them legions of fresh fans. In terms of who makes them buzz and which artists are important to them, one might think the likes of The Slits, Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney are at the top of the list but, as that might be stereotyping and being narrow, there are some unexpected idols in their collections. In this interview from 2018, We Are Raw Meat probed them about their influences:
“We ask everyone what their favourite tracks or artists/ bands are from the past, the present, and who they think we should be listening out for in the future - I’d love to know each of yours.
Charlotte: Kate Bush is religious in status to me. I love the Broken English album by Marianne Faithfull. I'm a massive disco person and have an unabashed addiction to eighties pop. I think the eighties was a very interesting and experimental time with the advent of gadgetry and the trial and error factor when using all the new synths and ting.
Joanie: Love a bit of Throbbing Gristle, especially Hot on the Heels of Love.
Stef: All sorts - Bongwater, La Femme, Delta blues, Italo disco.
Beth: Also all sorts of things, Stooges, Can, a bit of Bronski Beat, Funkadelic, basically anything with soul and groove and/ or menace.
Current bands we dig include Sex Cells, Warmduscher, Deep Tan, Melt Dunes, Pink Eye Club, Jack Medley’s Secure Men, Black Midi and Amyl & The Sniffers”.
That is quite an eclectic blend of sounds! It would be a bit lazy to compare Madonnatron too readily to others but, when you listen close, they have their own style and sound. They are a vastly exciting young band who are going from strength to strength and are getting some great focus. They have appeared in session for Marc Riley on BBC Radio 6 Music a few times and always give such incredible performances! Their new album, Musica Alla Puttanesca, was released a couple of week ago and, aside from its kick-ass cover art, the music takes their talent to new levels. In terms of describing it, this is what Rough Trade say:
“Having moved forwards emotionally from the wilds of dystopian stalking and associated hobbies, Madonnatron have instead been found frolicking through the green pastures of gangsta pimps, Hindu God wars, Cyber Men invasion, loveless nightclub hook-ups, modern Italian Nabokov, and revered screen goddess Elizabeth Taylor. Think of them as post-punk lab rats in the Secrets Of Nimh, feasting dubiously on back-dated episodes of Top Of The Pops. With notorious roaring guitars, chanting vocals and rabid drums they audibly glow in the dark, are strong-armed, and will probably bite you. Like their debut, which was released to much acclaim in July 2017, Musica Alla Puttanesca was produced by Liam D. May at Trashmouth Studios. Their atmospheric, raw, and confrontational live shows carry a sonic force that by turns will make you weep, cross yourselves, and weep again”.
More confident and daring than their earliest work, there is also more variety in terms of the lyrics and compositions; a sense of boldness than has come from a string of gigs and a lot of critical applause. I am struggling to take in all the great albums from this year and, as I say, women are leading the pack. Musica Alla Puttanesca is a terrific and has been gathering a lot of love. This is what Backseat Mafia had to say:
“Moving away from the tales of dystopian stalking and associated hobbies, on Musica Alla Puttanesca the band tackle subjects including (but not limited to) gangsta pimps, Hindu God wars, Cyber Men invasion, loveless nightclub hook-ups, modern Italian Nabokov, as well as, well, Elizabeth Taylor. They wrap everything up in a wry humour, focusing on their skewed version of the world as if it were the norm, which by the end of the album, it seems to be.
But there’s more to Madonnatron than quirkiness. The music has this fearlessness about it – daring to make a post punk record and put string and brass into it (the sci-Fi thriller of NightRes in Silver being prime culprit) and a nod to X-Ray Spex with the added Sacophone on the brilliantly Super Hands.
From the opener, the fun-filled frothy Bone Dumb Grunt, right through to the mantra like theatric seems fun Venus & Rahu, Madonnatron toy with the listener, contrasting the light of Sweet Serena, with the dark, almost suffocating Flesh Pond, with the taught anger of Super Hands, all wrapped up in melodies and chorus’ to hand on for dear life to. And in the glow in the dark Liminal Madonnatron have written something which shows everything great about them, and pop music.
Long live Madonnatron”.
That last line is a sentiment I can get behind. The fact Madonnatron have a sort of 1980s quirk to them with a bit of Pop mixed with some snarl and edge makes them an irresistible proposition. I have covered them a few times on my site and I genuinely think they are going to be huge. I do think bands are making a comeback and there is that change from the all-male Indie/Rock groups to a much more interesting group of new bands that are mixing genres together and, yeah, are lot of the very best are all-female or female-led. If you can see Madonnatron on the road then you will be in for a funny, sweaty and memorable experience! They are a band that have many more albums in them and I do wonder where they will go from here. The band have not put out too many interviews recently but I do wonder whether touring and recording is keeping them busy. It would be good to hear what they have to say and get a whole new press wave going. They are definitely on my list of artists to watch and I hope to catch up with them very soon! Madonnatron are definitely excited right now and, in addition to getting some big radio attention and love, they have a full calendar. People up and down the country will flock to see them and experience this dynamic and essential band do their thing. I can well see them getting gigs in the U.S. and further afield and, as word spreads, you wouldn’t bet against them embarking on a world-wide tour. Maybe that is getting ambitious but Madonnatron have the sort of music in their arsenal that transcends borders and translates around the world. Snap up their albums, go see them live and give them a follow online. Madonnatron are definitely growing in stature and making a name for themselves. Few bands deserve the acclaim more and, for that reason, I salute…
THE mighty Madonnatron.