Brit poppers Madness have been enjoying quite a successful 12 months on the UK performance circuit. Not only have the 7 piece band, fronted by hat donning eccentric vocalist Suggs, played a fundamental role in the Queens Diamond Jubilee concert, performing on the rooftop of Buckingham Palace, they were also invited along as key performers at the Closing Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games as part of the events nod to the nations defining musical acts.
As well as performances at the country’s biggest patriotic events they have also been hard at work on their 10th studio album and one that comes with a rather peculiar title – Oui, Oui, Si, Si, Ja, Ja, Da, Da.
Upon first listen to the new album what is evident is that there isn’t much to the new recordings in terms of growth as a band and that is what really needs to be heard on the record. Instead, what is on offer is what sounds like a recycling of lesser known Madness pennings that the band churned out in their eighties peak years rather than new additions that help the act shift and evolve into the modern day.
Madness have never really been a band able to float my boat. I guess the craze passed me by in the years where liking an act such as Madness was required in their hey-day when tracks like Baggy Trousers, ‘House of Fun and Our House ruled the airwaves so the band’s latest effort was met with a little skepticism.
The opening My Girl 2 is a playful introductory to the record with an eighties instrumental funfair quality along with pointlessly quirky lyrics and although it seems so displaced as an ushering track to light the match on this latest offering from the band it is a catchy affair that quickly plants itself into your head. The following Never Knew Your Name unfolds like a track that would be suitable for the soundtrack of The Loveboat with its easy listening assets and distinctive disco quality.
Strings and trumpets merge together on La Luna providing an upbeat early addition to the track listing as well as showing off a Spanish infused number alongside Suggs whistling skills while further down the record Circus Freaks puts the bands eccentric musicianship to the test on the records standout track. Overflowing with a bustling instrumentation the number is the records most commercial and radio friendly inclusion.
With Oui, Oui, Si, Si, Ja, Ja, Da, Da the band still retain their signature ska/pop influences that made the collective such a successful force in British music back in the eighties. That influence drips most heavily on Kitchen Floor, a centre point to the record with a toe-tapping melody and some pretty risqué lyrics that and finished with a sentimental nod to belonging while the ska foundation sits atop of subtle string section playing out modestly in the songs background.
Overall, Oui, Oui, Si, Si, Ja, Ja, Da, Da is a mixed release for Madness. I guess I have never been a fan of bands where the vocals are as disregarded as Madness’ tend to be and that is a wall that finds its place between me and this record. Though the musical element of the band shines in places within the new album, much like previous records, the lack of vocal ability does prevent me from taking in much from this band. Suggs has a distinct voice – that cannot be denied – but the songs are spoken word instead of sung and gives off a “what’s the point of vocals at all” feel to each of the songs these guys record while the arrangements seem far from challenging.
Even if I cannot call myself a fan of Madness, there is a slightly warming and nostalgic quality to the new record and an essence of the bands longevity that is important to appreciate. After all, the band have been going strong for close to 40 years and their music has been the score to countless music fans over the years and that is something that deserves respects – even if one cannot commit to a state of Madness fandom.
::: RenownedForSound.com’s Editor and Founder –
Interviewing and reviewing the best in new music and globally recognized artists is his passion.
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