Wednesday, 17 June 2009

You said this, you said that


Madness were pretty high on my agenda in 1980, marginally above two tone tonic trousers and slightly below Seona MacGregor.

Their second LP ‘Absolutely’ was the first LP that I ever purchased with my own money rather than inherited or had bought for me (it was £3.49, from Phase One Records, Colchester) and, for a period of several months, it was one of only four or five LP's I owned, so I got to know it pretty well (I bought Madness records backwards to start with – my second purchase was their first LP.).

The thing I liked most about Madness was that they were real people: they didn’t live in castles or wear capes, and they weren’t extravagantly musical or poetical: they looked like plasterers and they spoke like me, and that’s very appealing to a twelve year old with vague ambitions of being in the music business (I still have those vague ambitions, but I split the two tone tonic trousers).

‘Absolutely’ is probably Madness’ best LP. Primarily a singles band, they often struggled to be consistent over half an hour, and on the longer format everybody in the seven piece band had a go at writing, with mixed results, especially as they matured and became more stylistically diverse (but sadly less interesting). Although ‘Absolutely’ has some duff moments (I could do without the rock and roll pastiche ‘Solid Gone’, for example) it has a number of memorable tracks, a couple of great singles, some fantastic playing (particularly from guitarist Chris Foreman) and showcases the archetypal Madness sound: a balance between jaunty, fairground music and gritty, downbeat lyrical content, shot through with humour, irony and a great pop sensibility.

‘In The Rain’ has a ska-lite arrangement and features a nice, cheapo organ sound from Mike Barson, as well as some very British swearing in the chorus. ‘You Said’ is a cool song by any standards, with a strong melody, an interesting arrangement and some typically straightforward words. Recently making a strong comeback, Madness are often dismissed as a novelty band but, then and now, I’ve always felt that unfair: great pop is great pop, regardless of how silly the accompanying dance might be.

1 comment:

George Kramer said...

...........yeah but Suggs is a tosser.