Madness - Complete Madness
Madness were a breath of fresh air at a time when pop music began taking itself too seriously again after the excesses of the punk era. Born out of the ska revival of the late seventies, Madness were popular at the same time as the new romantics rode high in the charts and could not have presented a starker contrast. Madness put the fun back into music - who can forget the flying saxophonist?! Yet, at the same time, Madness gave you the opportunity to have a damn good bop as well. New romantics on the other hand were all about dressing up, wearing make up and suggested that, if you were serious poser, you too could get laid by good looking people, as well as hiding the awful reality of what was being done to the country by those in power. Madness just got you dancing with songs which tended to take your mind off the reality of the situation in which you found yourself.
In the end, Madness was all about good music. Just listen to "Night Boat to Cairo", a song which conveys the true essence of the band. This is all about having a good time and is one of the greatest all time messing around tracks you will ever hear. Put this on at any party and you will have a line of people walking round the place in mock Egyptian style before the song ends - and it's barely over three minutes long. They could be serious when they wanted to be as well, "Embarrassment" is a fine example of the band taking a theme (teenage pregnancy) seriously without ever losing sight of the fact that music is supposed to be FUN.
In some ways, the album came out perhaps a little too early to present a true picture of Madness' work, and the title Complete may therefore be something of a misnomer. Though this has been corrected by later compilations I still have a fondness for this album even though some of the band's best songs do not feature as a result. "Our House" and the fabulous "Michael Caine" are two examples which spring to mind immediately. Yet there remain enough gems on this all-too brief compilation to whet the appetite and get the feet tapping for all but the most hardened cynic.
Sometimes Madness could become a bit samey as the messing around got too much, but who cares. Fun music, well played, catchy, sometimes incisive, never dull. What more could you want. Oh, and you can dance to it, in a quirky kind of way. B****y marvellous! Having seen them twice at the O2, packed to capacity with 20,000 people, I can vouch for the fact that there is nothing like a good bit of Madness to warm a winter evening. Going to Madness gig is probably the best fun you can have with your clothes on.
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