Saturday, 29 August 2009

Yesterday's men

Part two in a possibly Notting Hill Carnival inspired review of English Ska bands. "One Step Beyond" by Madness. This was the first album I actually went out and bought for myself (on cassette, from Woolies). Last post I said that the Specials were for older brothers; Madness were the band that me and my mates were all into. Obviously I've got a lot of affection for Madness and it bugs me slightly that they seem to be regarded as runners up to the Specials. It's partly their own fault I suppose for coming up with the whole "Nutty Sound" thing. And they also made a bit of a mess of splitting up and getting back together, they did it too many times and now nobody seems to care about them.

Anyway, all those years ago I actually set off that Saturday morning to get "Complete Madness" but the friend I went with beat me to the last copy. After some consideration I settled on "One Step Beyond" because it had "Nightboat to Cairo", "The Prince", "One Step Beyond" and "Madness" on it. But the real deal breaker was the presence of "Bed And Breakfast Man". It was my favourite Madness tune for a long time, now it alternates with "The Sun and the Rain".

Like the Specials, Madness's first album is the most Ska-ified they did (possibly not counting more recent things, which I haven't heard) and then they branched out into the sort of pop that you could hardly move for in the eighties but which nobody seems to do anymore, y'know, songs that actually seem to be about something. Overall the album's a bit depressing with none of the breeziness normally associated with Madness: hard luck romance "My Girl", "Believe Me", squaddies' drudgery "Land of Hope and Glory" and drugs "Razor Blade Alley" (of the songs I'd never heard before I bought it, this was the best discovery, the keyboard sound is, appropriately, very sharp).

Madness: Bed and Breakfast Man

I love the whole thing but especially the bit at 1'53" where the sax and Suggs' voice collide and bend over the word "hand".

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