Release Date: Oct 28, 2016
Record label: Universal
Despite the departure of original member Cathal “Chas Smash” Smyth, the elements that made Madness one of the most beloved bands of the early 1980s are intact on Can’t Touch Us Now, their first album for four years. There’s plinky-plonky piano (the title track), cartoonish sound effects (gunshots on Grandslam) and a nod to their ska roots (Mumbo Jumbo). We have singalong choruses galore – Another Version of Me even has a singalong chorus that, like their biggest hits Our House and House of Fun, has the word “house” in it.
Madness first rose to fame as the biggest stars of the U.K. ska revival, but with time their approach evolved into a very British mixture of pop, rock, and R&B, and the shift suited their lyrical approach. At their best, Madness always had a keen but loving appreciation of the foibles of British life, like a more playful version of Village Green Preservation Society-era Ray Davies, and the consistency and strength of their songwriting was as much a part of their success as their purposefully goofy showmanship.
Madness has proven itself a smart and snazzy band over the decades, even giving us a latter day classic via 2009’s Liberty of Norton Folgate. That most deft release was followed by 2012’s less exuberant but still fun Oui Si Ja Da Da,and then a four-year absence that ends with Can’t Touch Us Now. Arrivals of new collections such as this are excellent reminders that Madness can be an incredibly serious and thought-provoking band at times, and, equally, a reminder that, often, Madness has been at its best when it’s not trying too hard to be serious or thought-provoking.