June 14, 1982 12:00 PM

The Motels

Her pipes are in a league with Pat Benatar, Chrissie Hynde and Sheena Easton. Onstage, she may be more electrifying than any of them. If she wanted to, Martha Davis could probably fly solo at a high commercial altitude. But like Hynde with the Pretenders, Davis, 31, prefers to keep her talents within the comradely boundaries of a band. In the Motels, the group she founded in Los Angeles in 1979, she has a skilled quartet of accompanists with a stylistic range as broad as her own. (The one thing they lack that, say, the Pretenders have is a unique signature sound.) Writing or co-writing nine of the 10 songs, Davis brings quaking emotion to the plucky electro-pop dance confection Art Fails and a shimmering, clear-voiced plaintive-ness to Tragic Surf, a tongue-in-cheek melodrama that is the band’s most rousing advertisement for itself. Her evident admiration for R&B comes through on Forever Mine, a bouncy Supremes-like number that works less well than People, Places and Things on 1980’s second Motels album, Careful. Change My Mind, however, is a sophisticated blues ballad that does work, thanks in part to the tenor sax backing of Marty Jourard.

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