Head here to submit your own review of this album.

The Durham drawl is alive and well within the members of pop-punk foursome Martha, as they attack life and love with the poignant, adept lyricism of similar ilk like Los Campesinos! and Radstewart. At their core, Martha, who pride themselves on their DIY, vegan, straight-edge approach, wield an indie-pop sweetness; it's a bit like the gooey centre of a throat lozenge. Surrounded by skinned axe-bolsh, there's a refreshingly down-to-earth affability.

Their debut LP, entitled Courting Strong, sees them slide through lovelorn fuzz and shabby wit, jarringly bold pop and grand statements. It's the aural equivalent of watching a figure-skater's midlife crisis. Not that the record's a crisis of any kind: the four-piece definitely pine for the romantic – from their Scooby-Doo roleplay metaphors on 'Sleeping Beauty', or the overt teenage angst on '1967, I Miss You And I'm Lonely'. "This statement might sound phoney/but I miss you, and I'm lonely," the band yowls with vintage pop-punk grit/earnest, semi-emo gall. As a hidden caveat, it does sound, to the untrained ear, like they're singing "I miss you, and I'm horny," which changes the meaning somewhat.

If it was released a good decade ago, this would be rising through MySpace and the hearts of reverse-mulleted MCR-fanatics. There's an argument to be made for Martha spearheading the '00s nostalgia movement – it's likely they're not, but their sonic concoction, fusing emo-pop and pop-punk (and scuzzy Dananananaykrodian explosions), does bear resemblance to some of the sounds of 2002. 'Move To Durham And Never Leave', for example, sounds like Taking Back Sunday fronted by Guy Garvey on helium. The almost cliché title of 'Gin and Listerine' screams Daily Mail panic (who remembers the 'all emo kids ride Vespas' claim?). However, it's actually an endearingly sweet doozy, which has more in common with Los Camp than Jimmy Eat World, or The Libertines than Hawthorne Heights.

Despite all that gubbins not being particularly dusty yet, and whether it's deliberate or not, it bolsters Martha's m.o.: being a fuzzy, retro-infected guitar band with indie/pop sensibilities doesn't exactly set you apart from the flock nowadays. Doing it well will help, and doing it with a unique twist will help considerably more – Radstewart's gambit saw them attack us with sardonic, self-deprecating cuts mourning the end of university. Martha hark back to classic (for many) pop-punk, saying new – or at least updated – things with methods many had put into storage and subsequently padlocked. It's not a route that'll work en masse, but Martha are fortunate enough to be mining that narrow vein in the wider public eye.

On Courting Songs, the Northerners are clearly outgrowing the squalor of lo-fi, and it frequently seems like they stop themselves going supernova, which is the greatest shame on the record. Regardless of how they fit into a genre, or, for that matter, don't fit into a genre, they make big statements. With a lot of volume. It often feels like their DIY antics prevent them from riding these grandiose motifs into the sunset astride majestic stallions... but then this is a debut. It's probably a bit much to demand perfection on the first outing. They've chucked a very decent anthology into the ether, and it's come back largely unscathed; there's a few things to revisit for next time, but this is a strong debut nonetheless.

This is the place you'll find reviews from 405 Readers. To join in, head here.