Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Madness - Absolutely (1980)

On the beat Pete....


Released September 1980


1. Baggy Trousers
2. Embarrassment
3. E.R.N.I.E.
4. Close Escape
5. Not Home Today
6. On The Beat Pete
7. Solid Gone
8. Take It Or Leave It
9. Shadow Of Fear
10. Disappear
11. Overdone
12. In The Rain
13. You Said
14. Return Of The Las Palmas 7                

After the breakneck, frenetic ska on e-numbers pop of their debut album, "One Step Beyond". This was more of the same from North London's self-styled and lovable "nutty boys". It wasn't quite as frantic as the first album, showing signs of the group's burgeoning and maturing wry, witty social observation. The distinctive ska rhythms are still there, they had yet to become more intricate as yet, and songs like "Shadow Of Fear", "E.R.N.I.E." and "Take It Our Leave It" are classic examples of that, but lurking underneath them is a cynical but appealing realism and melancholy. This is certainly not simply a throwaway piece of nutty fun, despite the largely upbeat musical tone. The clever lyrics and broad appeal would soon rid the band of the unfortunate skinhead following they had initially attracted as well, to the group's relief.

The hit singles from the album are memorable - the schoolyard romp of "Baggy Trousers" and the lounge bar groove of the instrumental "The Return Of The Los Palmas 7", although "Embarrassment" hides a dark, sad tale of implicit in-family racism behind its catchy melody. It is based on the true life experience of saxophonist Lee Thompson's sister. Madness had an ability to write often cynical social comment dressed up in irresistible, singalong melodies. So many people sang along with that song, without really knowing what it was about.

"You Said" is a typical piece of Madness ska in the "My Girl" vein, so they were still doing that sort of thing, which was not wrong as therein lay their appeal, but eventually they would probably need to branch out lyrically from down-to-earth boy/girl break-up tales. They did, soon enough. There is a great dubby bass bit at the end of the track. "On The Beat Pete" is an Ian Dury-esque upbeat song about a London policeman. It has a sort of goofy music hall appeal. "Solid Gone" has some fifties, fairground rock 'n' roll boogie-woogie backing showing that they could diversify away from ska if necessary. "Crying Shame" is ska-ish but also thumping and bassy too.

The album is basically still, with a few diversions, though, an upbeat ska one - full of saxophone and lively melodies, but the songwriting is developing and Madness are rapidly showing that they were more than simply a bunch of nutty lads in it for a laugh. They could play and they knew what was what.

The "deluxe edition" has a virtually full concert's worth of superb, rough and ready, kicking live material.


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