I love Madness, they were part of the musical soundtrack I grew up with until, like so many other bands of that era (Blondie, Duran Duran to name but two), they went away and ‘did other stuff’ in the late 1990’s. Years later great excitement ensued among the Madness faithful when, in 2004, they returned with The Dangermen Sessions and The Liberty of Norton Folgate. It’s always a risk to try for a comeback. Will it work? Do they ‘have it’ any more? Can they still write great music? Are they too old now? After a few stutters Madness mostly got their groove back and we all (mostly) still love them. They’re like national treasures now. Not many bands get to play on the roof of Buckingham Palace for the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations.
I say they’ve ‘mostly’ got their groove back because for me, Madness are now similar to how they were back in their heyday. In my opinion, their albums were a bit ‘half and half’, some great tracks, classic tracks, mixed in with some average ‘filler’ tracks. Although Madness fans will tell you this latest album is the best thing since the last best thing Madness ever did, I think it’s a mixed bag. Fortunately the album is worth it for the songs that do hit the mark.
It’s a cd of two half’s. The first half has songs that are both classic Madness and very nearly classic Madness. The second half fades though and succumbs to ‘filler’ syndrome, for die hard fans only.
The first half is genuinely good and filled with the kind of upbeat carnival-eque musical jamboree’s that Madness are famous for with a few more thoughtful ones as well. They are one of those bands that can take a basically sad song, Never Knew Your Name, and make it immediately catchy and memorable by setting it to a lovely melody. My Girl 2, La Luna, How Can I Tell You, Misery and So Alive are among the best tracks, the acid test being that they stay in your head after only one listen.
The first half tempts you to think this could be a triumphant whole album but it’s a let down after that where the creative well seems to have run dry. Not everyone will agree but that’s my own opinion.
Part of the magic is that the songs that work well all sound so effortless. You can imagine the band lying on sun loungers on a beach in the Bahamas, singing away with not a care in the world backed up by the cacophony of musical instruments producing mostly coherent, catchy melodies. Where the album works, it’s relaxed, smooth and undemanding. Sadly it can’t maintain the momentum and gradually fades.
Definitely worth listening to for the first half but goes downhill after that.
Thanks for reading 🙂
My Girl 2
Never Knew Your Name
How Can I Tell You
Death of a Rude Boy
Black and Blue
My Girl 2 (bonus)