Thursday, 10 October 2019

Madness - Can't Touch Us Now (2016)

Mumbo jumbo....

  

Released on 28 October 2016

Running time 58.59

Forget all that One Step Beyond nutty stuff that many expect Madness to serve up on stage, this is, like all their post-2000 work, a very mature and impressive album. As always, the group's keen eye for the minutiae of ordinary, urban (London) British life is reflected loud and clear in their clever, often dryly amusing lyrics. People mention The Kinks or maybe Ian Dury as being the masters of that sort of thing, but, for me, nobody has ever done it as well as Madness. Their intelligent and irresistibly catchy, melodic songs are often overshadowed by their "nutty" image, which is to pay their talent a true disservice.

TRACK LISTING

1. Can't Touch Us Now
2. Good Times
3. Mr. Apples
4. I Believe
5. Grandslam
6. Blackbird
7. You Are My Everything
8. Another Version Of Me
9. Mumbo Jumbo
10. Herbert
11. Don't Leave The Past Behind You
12. (Don't Let Them) Catch You Crying
13. Pam The Hawk
14. Given The Opportunity
15. Soul Denying
16. Whistle In The Dark                                      
Can't Touch Us Now starts the album in instantly recognisable Madness fashion, that clunking piano  underpinning its lively tones. Good Times has Suggs reflecting on what it may be like living on life's bottom rung. "Where did all the good times go.." he questions. Where they ever here, Suggs? I can't remember any, that's for sure. Mr Apples is a wry, observational number about a reactionary bureaucrat hiding some unsavoury secrets. I Believe has an infectious My Girl-style bass beat.

Grandslam is a solid typically Madness skank, overflowing with great guitar and organ, while Blackbird is an evocative and atmospheric song semi-sung, semi-spoken by Suggs packed full of London atmospheric, name-checking Dean Street in Soho. It has some jazz overtones about it too, referencing Ronnie Scott's and using the "vibes" keyboard instrument.




You Are My Everything has a dense, vaguely funky beat, some nice buzzy guitar and a deadpan Suggs vocal. It is a typical Madness love song, brutally honest and with no sense of self-consciousness whatsoever. Another Version Of Me is a big, brassy punchy number and Mumbo Jumbo is sort of like The Specials meeting Dexys Midnight Runners with Suggs taking shots at political hypocrisy. It quotes the line "propaganda ministers" from the group's early  Prince Buster cover, MadnessHerbert does the whole Ian Dury thing in its rhyme scheme and lyrical couplets. It is also has that Klezmer-style keyboard backing used on The Liberty Of Norton Folgate.

Don't Leave The Past Behind You has some solid brass breaks and a strong set of guitar riffs. A deep, throbbing bass introduces the late night jazzy feel of (Don't Let Them) Catch You Crying which is full of excellent saxophone and another slightly funky beat. The organ breaks are very Elvis Costello & The Attractions. This is a really good track.

Pam The Hawk is also full of London images in the sad tale of a woman who walks the streets of Soho, begging. She was a real character, known to many (including Suggs, no doubt) - Pamela Jennings (1964-2012). Suggs is so good at writing compassionate real life songs like this. The track ends with some suitably moving saxophone. Given The Opportunity is archetypal Madness and would have fitted it quite well on their early eighties albums.

Soul Denying is one of those quirky love songs Madness have always done so well. Whistle In The Dark is a theatrical number with a slow waltz-style beat.

This is yet another of Madness's intriguing, finely-crafted albums. The older they have got, the better their work has been, in many ways.

B-