Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Madness - 7 (1981)

Sign of the times....


Released October 1981


1. Cardiac Arrest
2. Shut Up
3. Sign Of The Times
4. Missing You
5. Mrs Hutchinson
6. Tomorrow's Dream
7. Grey Day
8. Pac-A-Mac
9. Promises Promises
10. Benny Bullfrog
11. When Dawn Arrives
12. The Opium Eaters
13. Day On The Town
14. Missing You                            

Before they seriously showed that they could diversify on 1982's excellent "Madness - The Rise And Fall" album, Madness started to show promising signs on this, their third outing. Yes, they could still be delightfully and lovably silly (nutty) such as on the energetic goofiness of "Benny Bullfrog" and "Pac - A - Mac" (about a portable mackintosh), but where the obvious skill of Madness was now showing through was on the dark subject of other songs, even popular hit singles. They were starting to prove that they were far more than a bunch of cheery lads out for some fun. The Kinks, Squeeze and Ian Dury influences are all there, particularly in the characterisation of people from British society. However, Madness, for me, do it best. Their characters are often not comic ones, but tragic everyday ones, like poor "Mrs Hutchinson".

"Cardiac Arrest" is about someone having a heart attack, yet they turned it into a singalong hit single. Similarly, "Grey Day" celebrates a miserable (probably February or November) day. Only Madness could make a soulless grey day something worth singing about. "Mrs Hutchinson" is a stark, heartbreaking song about a middle-aged woman becoming seriously ill. These are dark, solemn subjects, yet somehow Madness manage to pull it off. The songs are also impressively played, too, check out the bass and keyboards on "Grey Day" and that almost classical piano riff. "Shut Up" is a fun song about criminals being chased by the police, but, again, it betrays a dark side of petty crime and arrest. It also has a hint of The Jam's "Start!" in its "what you give is what you get" lyric.

"Missing You" has jazzy influences, full of saxophones and dubby echoes. This is more than a simple ska song. "The Opium Eaters" again experiments with jazz piano and percussion rhythms on an infectious instrumental. "Sign Of The Times", though, has a lively Motown-style bass riff. The Beautiful South would use rhythms like this a lot, and I am sure they were influenced by the lyrics in places too. "Promises, Promises" sticks to that traditional Madness sound, but the lyrics are wry and somewhat cynical beneath the saxophone-driven fun. "Day On The Town" is a bleak, dub-drenched "Ghost Town"-style tale of "riots in London".

Basically, as far as I'm concerned, all Madness albums are good. One can enjoy each and everyone of them. They are lyrically astute and musically increasingly clever and inventive within their basic framework. It is difficult to say one is any better than any of the others, they all have their good moments.


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