MADNESS The Liberty Of Norton Folgate ***** (Lucky7 Records Lucky7003CD), £11.74
The cut of Madness's musical cloth is now a socially observing sharp crease rather than a knockabout knees-up in baggy trousers.
A decade since last testing the murky waters of the album market, the septet make a triumphant return with an impressively sophisticated set of songs. Opening with the complex culture clash of Mike Barson's Overture, the erstwhile Nutty Boys proclaim We Are London. From anyone else it would sound both presumptuous and pretentious, from Madness it is but a cheery matter of fact. Sugar And Spice is a great narrative, Suggs waxing nostalgic about getting a flat in Golders Green "with a second-hand fridge and a washing machine," with shades of Squeeze's Difford and Tilbrook.
But the strength is in the consistency and the rich diversity of the record's musical texture, the vocal exchanges of On The Town, or reflective melody of Forever Young, illuminated by an out-of-the-box electric guitar solo.
Mk II boasts the most sumptuous of pop melodies, stacked with dramatic chord changes to match, all packed into less than two-and-a-half minutes. Idiot Child puts the skids under progressive education through gleefully gritted teeth, and NW5 is a deceptive sing-along with a sting in the chorus. This is how a truly modern musical should sound, full of colour with razor-sharp lines. Beaming out from the footlights is Suggs, a vocal entertainer at the top of his game.
Download this: Forever Young, Rainbows