“Indefatigable.” That’s how Rolling Stone described Martha Davis in a profile of the Motels from September 1982. It was then and is now an accurate characterization of the group’s founder, primary songwriter, lead singer, and guitarist. Then: the Motels were celebrating their first Top 10 pop hit in the US with the Davis-penned “Only the Lonely” after the group nearly imploded while recording their third album for Capitol Records, the unreleased Apocalypso (1981). Now: Martha Davis is celebrating the long overdue release of Apocalypso, whose embers have been rekindled by Omnivore Recordings after 30 years of lockdown in the vault.
To see Davis stand among towering flames on the cover of Apocalypso is to understand the kind of decimation she’s survived in the intervening decades. Not even flames could desiccate the well of creativity that’s nourished her through the Motels’ dissolution in the ‘80s, major label woes, and her re-emergence with a new Motels line-up in the ‘90s. The release of Apocalypso has given Davis a chance to reclaim the classic Motels sound and fashion a fresh concert set that explores what might have happened had Capitol issued the album instead of the lacquered sheen of the group’s breakthrough, All Four One (1982). Original member Marty Jourard, whose distinctive keyboard and saxophone playing contributed to the group’s core musical identity from the late ‘70s through the early ‘80s, has joined Davis and the Motels for a series of Apocalypso-centric dates. On the first night of the Apocalypso tour in Philadelphia, Martha Davis revisited that moment 30 years ago when, in her words, “the train got de-railed”.