Sunday, August 30, 2009

Irish Times review of "Norton Folgate"

This is my reaction to a review of the new Madness album. Raise your hand if you've stopped reading this already.
First, here's the review.
Yes, they love it. And I really really like it. So what's the problem? I don't think they really understand the band.
One quote that annoyed me was this:
"With their trademark ska sound and quirky humour replaced by a theatrical music-hall feel and lyrics that require a reference book in order to decipher them"
Yes, they've always exhibited "quirky humour," but that "theatrical music-hall feel" was there almost from the beginning, prevalent in 1980's Absolutely, their second album, and it seems to me as much a part of their "trademark sound" as two-tone ska.
The other irksome thing is the "top five Madness moments." Choosing "Sugar and Spice" over such landmarks as Madstock '92 and albums like "Seven" is taking living in the moment too far. I hope it gets people to support the new single, but come on people! Srsly?
I think the problem is actually that Madness were too popular in the UK in the 80s. It makes them seem cheesy over there. Instead of going "Who?" when they hear Madness invoked, Brits tend to go, "Ugh. We're too cool for that shit now. We have to listen to whiny weasels who sound like chalk on a blackboard." At least that's my perception. So all the reviews of this album are just pleas to take the band seriously. But to my mind they were always to be taken seriously. Maybe it's because their darker sensibilities were sort of snuck in under the peppy music. Now I'm not the first to say this, but ska/reggae has always done that anyway; listen to the lyrics of any of those songs and any humor you find is as dark as it gets. Just because Madness weren't as obviously "political" or "subversive" as the Specials doesn't mean they were just a bunch of silly gits.
This is one rambling mess. Anyone who's read this far has certainly gotten my point by now. I'll shut up.

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