The reunion conveyor belt is in full flow in 2009, rife with mid life crises and faulty produce. Depeche Mode, Spandau Ballet, The Pet Shop Boys and way too many more haggard 80’s pin ups are flapping about on the jetty hoping to re-live their heyday with dubious albums, hair cuts and delusions that anybody in today’s market still gives a rat’s arse about them. This poses the question, why should we care about a 2 Tone band that has re-formed more times than a stress ball? Well, the answer is, we most definitely should care. Madness‘ return isn’t a half baked “look at me, remember me from the 80’s” scenario, but one of Britain’s best single bands back with a product likely to induce a pop infused endorphin meltdown.
The Liberty of Norton Folegate is an album that in its essence is pure pop seeped in a love of ska, music hall and London, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for them. Their Glastonbury appearance, various festival appearances and their O2 show have reminded Britain that Madness still know how to show us a good time. Not to mention their forthcoming Electric Picnic slot, surely the perfect Irish home for them.
‘We are London’ is the best entry point to the record. It meanders around London, from The Roundhouse to Old Compton, regaling in how ‘we can make it our own heaven or hell.’ This isn’t exactly a lyrical departure for a band that have a grandiose Ian Dury shaped hard on for everything London town (a recurring theme in the album), however, it is a band back on winning formula with interesting arrangements, catchy melodies and hooks. Part of that return to form may be in no small part to the delegation of song writing. One time it would have been left to Mike Barson to sift his head into the hit factory and suck out a gem, now we have Suggs, Lee Thompson, Daniel Woodgate and Mr Foreman pulling their weight, in quite spectacular fashion.
Suggs’ contribution is particular impressive. -Forever Young’ is a bass and brass pleasure that is ska enough for purists and catchy enough to preoccupy and consume the only brain cell of the average amoeba enough for it to bellow out one chorus then die. It is also a lyrical testament to where these once cherub faced cheeky buggers find themselves now as middle aged men, par example, -stay forever young, for paradise lost and innocence gone.’ The Liberty of Norton Folegate does what many other bands of Madness’ situation have done by examining all the different periods of their career and amalgamating it into one great reunion album. The only difference for them is, they have created an album so consistent and brilliant that it makes their reunion contemporaries look like fat old strippers trying to relight the fire after too many bastard children and kebabs.