Now in their 60s, the self-styled Nutty Boys will be Nutty OAPs by the time they knock out their next album. But age has not dimmed their likeability nor their ambition.
It’s a long way from Camden’s Dublin Castle to a late-1950s experimental theatre setting and yet there is nothing po-faced about their 13th full-length record.
Eerie title track C’est La Vie resurrects the old Madness bounce, sounding fresh, jaunty and engaging, while the lyrics of keyboard whizz Mike Barson warn us “we’re only a moment away” from Armageddon.
Suggsy’s insidiously catchy If I Go Mad employs Dexys-style horns over a foot-tapping beat. Other songs fall back on minor key melancholy to create a poignant sound.
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What On Earth Is It (You Take Me For?) – written by sax player Lee ‘Kix’ Thompson and guitarist Chrissy Boy Foreman tips its funky hat to the late, great Ian Dury, whom Lee adored.
Dury would surely have approved of “You bend me like a pretzel, now I’m down on the floor” and “The ninth bell tolls and it’s Pussy Galore”. Is There Anybody Out There? is a wideboy joy tinged with jazz funk: “I sell ice to Eskimos for tuppence a bag”.
Former teenage thief Lee’s bittersweet Baby Burglar is part confessional.
Theatre Of The Absurd comes with “the cruellest cabaret, the blackest black comedy”.
The North Londoners have released concept albums before, of course. Since this one is based in a theatre, the 14 songs are punctuated with short bursts of spoken word from actors.
Genuine national treasures, Madness have been a part of our lives for more than 43 years.
Their first two albums went platinum and two of their last three albums were Top Five. Can their 13th with its mouthful of a name follow suit?
I wouldn’t bet against it.
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