And again an "old" band that features on WoNoblog in a short period of time. Madness always curried favour with me, ever since its first hit single 'One step beyond' in 1979. The fast paced, ska-fueled, nearly instrumental song, opened my musical tastes to a new sort of fun. All the hits that followed only added to the fun. In 2008 the band released another come back album, 'The liberty of Norton Folgate', which I really liked. More serious but still great fun. And now an album with a title that spells "yes" in English 8x over. Already at first listen I knew, I like you. Despite the fact that Madness's playing with the break on, the songs stand out and range broadly enough to keep attention where it should be. Let's go into more detail.
Madness manages to come up with music that fits its "men of a certain age members'" age. Its all in the mid-fast range, but arranged in such a way that there's a lot of ear candy in the mix, that make the songs interesting to listen to. Madness as grown ups? They attempted that from album '7' onwards, haven't they? That wasn't a huge success, while Oui oui ... is. 'My girl 2' features twice on the album. His girl is still mad at him every once in a while, but he is totally happy with her nowadays and carries her around on both hands, it seems. I like the Clive Langer/Charlie Andrew mix slightly better than the original.
For the rest the music goes from reggae based songs to songs what in The Netherlands are called "levenslied", which translates in "songs of life". Madness does it with a tongue in cheek, so that makes it sort of alright. "Never knew your name" even has the same theme as André Hazes' "Een beetje verliefd". A funky guitar and the signature sax sound of Kix sort of make up for the very tacky strings. The Philly soul, but also of Silver Convention strings are very un-Madness though. 'Misery' also could have been such a song, but the upbeat tempo makes up for the schmalzyness. Putting some mariachi influences into 'La Luna' works very well. High trumpets, deep vocals and the smooth rhythm transports anyone to beaches in warmer climes, thinking of Cuba libres.
Madness manages to combine more serious songs with pleasant melodies. Just listen to 'How can I tell you? switches from this slow song to a deliciously up-tempo song, with a great melody, piano part and guitar bit. Suggs gets away singing all these different sounds and genres. Not because he's a great singer, but because he knows his limitations and sticks to them. His voice has aged a bit, but that does not hurt Madness's sound in any way. It fits the band in 2012 in a gracious way.
Then the great intro to 'Kitchen floor' sets in with this sixties sounding electric piano. A slow reggae tune, that could have had Ian Dury as a singer. Lovely, bluesy guitar solo as well (and sax). There's some Beethoven mixed into 'Misery', which is quite surprising in such a song. 'Leon' is Madness' take on a John Lennon, The Beatles era, song, mixed into a Madness context.
I could go on like this. Madness has sort of reinvented itself and thus made itself ready for a future into a somewhat older age. Oui oui is a graceful, fun album. The antics are gone, but at every Madness show there will be enough of that, while the new songs give the band members time for a breather and present quality at the same time. Oui oui is not the best album ever, but a great Madness album of a sort which I did not know they had in them. The newer influences work very much in the band's favour. Perhaps a bit less Madness and a bit more of a lot other things. As long as that generates fun songs like 'Circus freaks', let Madness incorporate any influence they want.
You can order Oui oui si si ja ja da da here