Wednesday 22 November 2017

Album Review: Madness - Can the square fellows still cut it? Yes they can

Madness Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da Da (Cooking Vinyl)

John Meagher

John Meagher

This, the 10th album from Suggs and friends, arrives after a quite extraordinary summer for the original upstarts from north London. First, they get to play a show from the roof of Buckingham Palace -- to mark Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee.

Then, they are among the star attractions at the much-lauded Olympics opening ceremony.

It's safe to assume that their status as British national treasures has been well and truly sealed, even if that gig on the Mall suggested that they have long abandoned the anti- establishment leanings fostered in the cradle of late 1970s punk.

Although their reputation rests on a handful of ska anthems written 30-odd years ago, the band have continued to produce music that confirms their idiosyncratic songwriting smarts remain present and correct.

Their last album, The Liberty of Norton Folgate, is among their finest works and was hailed as one of the best releases of 2009.

This album -- while not as consistently strong as its predecessor -- also rewards the judicious listener. And it boasts several tracks that could vie with their best-loved songs for the affections of the radio playlisters.

Much of the album takes a look back to the fledgling days of their career, especially Death of a Rude Boy, which is as quintessential a Madness track as you could hope to hear.

And opener My Girl 2 clearly doffs its hat to one of their best-known songs.

It can't be described as a sequel -- and it certainly doesn't match the original My Girl for vim and vigour -- but it has a self-referencing charm that's likely to appeal to even the most hardened cynic.

It's a similar story with the wistful, yet playful, Never Knew Your Name, in which Suggs sings of a romantic encounter in a nightclub and wonders what might have been, had the couple ever met again.

His voice still oozes character and his buddy Mike Barson -- who penned this and most of its accompanying tracks -- shows yet again what a gifted, and underrated, songsmith he truly is.

As befitting a title that shouts "yes yes" in French, Spanish, German and Russian, there's a life-affirming quality to several of the songs on here.

And, like their most celebrated tunes, there's no shortage of humour either.

The cover, incidentally, was designed by Peter Blake -- the artist responsible for the legendary artwork on Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

KEY TRACKS My Girl 2; Never Knew Your Name

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