Album Review – Madness

Madness madstock

Madness – ‘Madstock!’ (Salvo)

This document brings together the reunion shows from a weekend in 1992 when Madness played live for the first time in six years…Yawn? Absolutely not!

Look: It’s easy to mock reunion tours as bands selling out, or simply being in it for the money – though it’s tempting to wonder as you get older whether the people who make these sorts of judgments aren’t responsible for keeping roofs over the heads of dependents. While this could be a naff document, the reality is that it shows Madness as being a band who meant – and mean – a helluva lot to many people, and who amassed a pretty damn amazing back catalogue. They may have seemed like they were just b
playing it for laughs, but they were a band with social commentary, and writers of one of the greatest bittersweet love songs ever in ‘My Girl.’

It’s not just a trawl through the hits – though they had many, and many are featured here. There’s also other tracks like ‘Bed and Breakfast Man’ and some of the smaller hits like ‘The Sun And The Rain’ and ‘Driving In My Car.’ Sure, the run through Jimmy Cliff’s ‘The Harder They Come’ falls a bit flat, though they thankfully didn’t bring out their cover of Scritti Politti’s The ‘Sweetest Girl” [yes, that punctuation is meant to be like that!). Of course, they made Labi Siffre’s ‘It Must Be Love’ their own – and that’s here, too.

Above all, what this is – and this is not something to be sniffed at – is that this is a band who came back together to headline their own festival, and absolutely nailed it. It could have been a tired rehash, a pointless exercise in nostalgia, and yet it was a band who demonstrated that they could not only work but hold a crowd. It helps that the sound quality is excellent – with a crowd who are clearly having a great time, and demonstrating just how much they should be considered one of the important bands who evolved out of the post-punk era.

With so many Madness compilations out there, there may be those who wonder whether there’s any point in a bringing together of the songs again. Undoubtedly, this is a worthwhile album. The thrill of band and audience as the feed off of each other crosses over to the record, ‘Shut Up’ being one of those moments where the audience are utterly as spellbinding as the band.


Madstock is out now on Salvo

Album Review – Madness (re-issue)

Madness One Step Beyond

Madness -‘One Step Beyond.’ (Salvo)

‘Hey You! Don’t Watch That Watch This!’

1979 is a serious contender for the greatest year in pop music EVER.

Frankly, it had to be. The world was going to hell in a handbasket. What with Russian invasions, hijackings, bombings, the winter of discontent and then the election of the Thatcher government in Britain, the rise of the far right… it was not a good time to be alive (thankfully, much of this bypassed me as a three year old. Others were not so lucky).

The soundtrack however was utterly fantastic. And Madness’ debut was part of the brilliance of that year (the list of great records for that year really is too long, but to single out three others, let’s say Talking Heads, Marianne Faithfull and PIL). Formed in London in 1976, the band’s debut kicks off with the fantastic sound of the call to arms that is the title track, with that quote, and a number of singles that hyave truly stood the test of time, such as their debut ‘The Prince’ (re-recorded here, it had originally appeared on The Specials’ 2-Tone label, and the band saw themselves in competition with Coventry’s finest), ‘Night Boat To Cairo’ and ‘My Girl.’ The latter truly ranks only behind Squeeze’s ‘Up the Junction’ as contender for ultimate British Bittersweet Lovesong.

It’s not just the singles that make the album such an essential piece of British pop. Those who saw them as being heirs to The Kinks were right on the money – with the creepy protagonist of ‘Mummy’s Boy’ with seriously impure thoughts or the newspaper with a penchant for stealing lingerie ‘In The Middle Of the Night.’

The reality is that this is a classic debut album, which holds its own among the list of the best ever debuts, and was a fantastic introduction to the band. Interestingly, it was the first time that producers Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley worked together (they would later work with Morrissey, Elvis Costello and the great lost Scottish band Digs Die In Hot Cars). The second part of the first disc also features a rehearsal tape from 1979 before the band were signed. Not surprisingly, sound quality is uh, ‘variable’ but it’s a fascinating document of how the band evolved. Added to the package is a DVD with music videos, live performances from The Old Grey Whistle Test and Top Of The Pops, and the 2000 BBC documentary Young Guns.

All in all, a great debt album and a re-issue package that should serve as a reminder for how these projects should be approached.


One Step Beyond is re-released by Salvo on October 13.

Some Covers For Thursday

(it’s really not far off this in Scotland now)

OK, don’t know how much I’m going to be able to post over the next few days, so here are seven covers for today. No linking theme, but hope you like them:

Muse -‘House Of the Rising Sun (The Animals cover).’ mp3

Big Star -‘Femme Fetale (Velvet Underground cover).’ mp3

The Pretenders -‘I Go To Sleep (The Kinks cover).’ mp3

Madness -‘It Must be Love (Labi Siffre cover).’ mp3

The Wedding Present -‘Felicity (Orange Juice cover).’ mp3

Slowdive -‘Some Velvet Morning (Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra cover).’ mp3

Big Black -‘The Model (Kraftwerk cover).’ mp3