“Danseparc (Everyday It’s Tomorrow)” b/w “Whatever Happened to Radio Valve Road”
Current/RCA Records WAKE 1 (Canada)
Released in January 1983
Produced by Daniel Lanois with Mark Gane and Martha Johnson

In 1982, Martha and the Muffins were freed from Virgin Records (though not yet Virgin Music, the publishing division) and handed back control of their careers by a new label, Canada’s Current Records, which was formed by their manager Gerry Young and his partner Joseph Fodor. Distributed worldwide distribution via RCA, Current gave the Muffins a larger budget to record Danseparc, their fourth album, with Ice Age producer Daniel Lanois. The sleeves of both album and single reveal an important new development: the band is Martha and the Muffins but also M+M. Mark Gane and Martha Johnson publicly introduced the alias at this point with the goal of transitioning away from the old name. “Our original title was something that was picked in haste, and we never thought it would become a serious one,” Gane told RPM Weekly. “We never really liked the name. When some people first hear it they think we’re some kind of bubble gum outfit.” The name underscores how the band was now helmed by Mark + Martha, who enlisted the rhythm section from the Ice Age tour — Jocelyne Lanois on bass, Canadian drummer Nick Kent on drums — plus guest musicians in the studio.

The a-side and b-side feature the album versions of Danseparc‘s first and last tracks, respectively. “Danseparc (Everyday It’s Tomorrow)” is a Gane/Johnson composition with lyrics by Martha that describe a narrator striving to sustain contact — or, in that sturdiest of early 80s metaphors, to dance — with a significant other. Johnson told me the song also references a recurring childhood nightmare of being chased by clowns in the East End Toronto park where her aunt and uncle lived: “Faces stare across at me/With eyes that look but cannot see.” The song fades in and out on swelling synths and a throbbing rhythm dotted with syncopated percussion; these sections bookend a fairly straightforward, rhythm guitar-driven tune with atmosphere and emotional ambiguity. Andy Haas was no longer in the band, saxophone by this point become just another option in the band’s instrumental palette provided by paid musicians, yet here it is again, driving the second half of the bridge. Mood and musical economy are everything on “Danseparc (Everyday It’s Tomorrow).” Lanois deftly weaves multiple vocal arrangements, drum machines, and field recordings around a subtle yet insistent band performance. The result is a single that remains a timeless deep cut (perhaps because it never really dented the charts) of early 80s alternative dance music.

That said, the promo video for “Danseparc (Everyday It’s Tomorrow)” — the band’s first, directed by Mark and Martha Ladly’s former art-school roommate, Robin Cass — at times looks very much a product of its time. Martha and the Muffins’ new label also gave them their first proper 12″ single, which includes an extended dance version of “Danseparc” plus an unreleased b-side, “These Dangerous Machines.” Both are available on the 2008 CD reissue of Danseparc.

On the a-side’s fade-out, Martha observes sotto voce, “This is a place I visited, and now it fades away.” The b-side could contain her elaboration. “Whatever Happened to Radio Valve Road” is an instrumental that inserts a delicate 7/8 pattern to suspend waking time and travel back to a forgotten setting of childhood exploration. (A real Radio Valve Road happens was formerly located on the outskirts of Etobicoke, the suburban borough where Martha and Mark grew up; see the comments on this blog post). The track incorporates a number instruments and sounds into something that paradoxically feels ethereal and abstract, and resonates profoundly with a sense of mysterious and wonder. I rank it among a handful of sublime instrumentals of the new wave era, alongside nuggets by Simple Minds and Ultravox.


The 7″ catalogue:
Martha and the Muffins – “Insect Love” b/w “Suburban Dream” (MM 001)
Martha and the Muffins – “Insect Love” b/w “Cheesies and Gum” (DIN 4)
Martha and the Muffins – “Echo Beach” b/w “Teddy The Dink” (DIN 9)
Martha and the Muffins – “Saigon” b/w “Copacabana” (DIN 17)
Martha and the Muffins – “Paint By Number Heart” b/w “Copacabana” (VS 1115)
Martha and the Muffins – “About Insomnia” b/w “1 4 6” (DIN 19)
Martha and the Muffins – “Suburban Dream” b/w “Girl Fat” (DIN 21)
Martha and the Muffins – “Was Ezo” b/w “Trance And Dance” (DIN 27)
Martha and the Muffins – “Women Around The World at Work” b/w “Twenty-Two in Cincinnati” (DIN 34)
Martha and the Muffins – “One Day in Paris” b/w “Women Around the World at Work” (104.209)
Martha and the Muffins – “Swimming” b/w “Little Sounds (Excerpts)” (VS 1136)
Martha and the Muffins – “Danseparc (Everyday It’s Tomorrow)” b/w “Whatever Happened to Radio Valve Road” (WAKE 1)
Martha and the Muffins – “World Without Borders” b/w “Boys in the Bushes” (WAKE 2)
Martha and the Muffins – “Several Styles of Blonde Girls Dancing” b/w “I’m No Good at Conversation” (WAKE 4)
M+M – “Black Stations/White Stations” b/w “Xoa Oho” (WAKE 7)
M+M – “Cooling the Medium” b/w “Big Trees” (WAKE 8)
M+M – “Song In My Head” b/w “Riverine” (WAKE 14)
M+M – “Someone Else’s Shoes” b/w “Million Dollars” (WAKE 16)
M+M – “Only You” b/w “Watching the Boys Fall Down” (WAKE 18)