Release Date: Sep 29, 2009
Record label: Yep Roc
Genre(s): Rock, Pop
Madness never disappeared but they faded away, spending years playing summer festivals and other oldies venues befitting an act specializing in nostalgia -- an impression that 2005's covers album, The Dangerman Sessions, did nothing to assuage. All this makes The Liberty of Norton Folgate, the band's first album of original material in ten years, and their first in more than a quarter-century, feel fully realized, even surprising. The element of surprise is not in the music, which is firmly within the 2-Tone tradition they laid down in the early '80s -- and indeed, is produced by their longtime collaborators Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley -- but rather that they've found a way to deepen their nutty sound, to offer nothing less than a mature, middle-aged spin on Presents the Rise & Fall.
History has been unkind to Madness. Forever regarded as purveyors of the self-defining, self-created “Nutty Sound”, the North London seven-piece has always had more than one side. There was the Ska-Saturated Madness (circa 1978), the Serious Grown-Up Pop Band Madness (circa 1984-1985) and the Socially Aware Madness (1985-1986). And they were just the main ones.
"We are London," contends Suggs on the bouncy tune of that name, which opens Madness's first studio album in a decade. Of all the bands in the capital, his sprightly survivors have a better claim than most to "be" London, and the quintessential Camden geezers' love affair with their city is still going strong. On this album, London is the backdrop for little dramas about capitalism's deleterious effects (Clerkenwell Polka), departed friends (NW5) and the East End's status as a haven for artists and eccentrics (the title track).