Americans may have long since forgotten the U.K. band Madness, known in the U.S. almost exclusively for the 1983 Top 10 single “Our House,” but the group is still carrying on, having had fitful, modest success in its homeland for the nearly three decades that have passed since that hit.
Madness performed during the closing ceremonies of the London 2012 Summer Olympics, which brightened the band’s blip on the radar, though it remains to be seen whether that heightened visibility will translate to enthusiasm for the group’s new “Oui, Oui, Si, Si, Ja, Ja, Da, Da.”
The release features all-new material and isn’t nearly as desperate as the title indicates. Frontman Graham “Suggs” McPherson leads the ska/pop group through a journey built on romance, nostalgia and whimsy.
The 51-year-old vocalist and his band still channel boyish wonder: Bouncy opening cut “My Girl 2” is the naive account of a smitten man trying to please a demanding-but-worth-it woman, and “So Alive” plaintively offers the most basic of love-song lines, “You make me feel so alive.” Yet there’s also maturity and darkness lurking, from the reflective, albeit breezy, “La Luna,” to the somber reggae drama “Death of a Rude Boy.”
In addition, the group offers robust diversity of sound. Full-bodied aggression emerges in the sweet “How Can I Tell You,” and a “Kitchen Floor“ underscored with a sly bit of blues. Elsewhere there’s a hint of the Beatles in “Leon” as well as a carnivalesque “Misery,” plus “Never Knew Your Name” taps a ’70s vibe with cabaret-meets-Abba-by-way-of-Barry-Manilow.
Humbly amusing though “Oui, Oui, Si, Si, Ja, Ja, Da, Da” is, there aren’t any tracks that will likely resonate with the masses (at least not the American masses), no hooks that will embed in the consciousness, no “wow” moments.
However, Madness probably isn’t banking on success on par with “Our House.” The band seems comfortable in its groove and determined only to make good music without demeaning itself.
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of five)
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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