Surviving on as a Hardwick Live staple and the bits and pieces Sainsbury’s fling at them for using Our House in homely grocery adverts, Madness are determined to bring about their usual cheeky charm. It has eloped and left us before but not for much longer, as latest EP and upcoming album, both named C’est La Vie, aim to prove. Whining saxophones and a groaning funk start which settles the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band-like introduction is a nice enough opener for the late stages of Madness. They shake it up enough to move away from their cemented and jolly, fast-paced style. Instead, there is a sense of I, Monster to it all, a creeping suspicion to their such is life mentality.
Falling one by one with a three-track lineup on a surprise EP is an old-school form of release which Madness are still enamoured with. Rightly so, it makes for a delicate palette cleanser before the big reveal in November. Those sinister tones which ride under the introduction are a dedication to this new era, an ode to a longer form of passing time. Whether Madness intended this darker proportion is unknowable, but subconsciously or not, they are drifting far from their tones of ska and turning themselves to funk. While the line is blurred ever so frequently, a connected and sincere desire to move in this direction may be fruitful, as If I Go Mad soon presents.
Crooner-meets-percussion feels for If I Go Mad marks an interesting opening before heading into territories previously covered by Phantom of the Paradise back in the 1970s. What a grim and heady time it was to be cornered by fear. Frontman Suggs has turned sincere and fearful of what is to come. Smooth rhythm is the key to these tracks, and they trade in memorable moves for a sterner look at themselves and their music. Thumpingly slower in its style, a real risk taken and a rewarding result headed up by the guitar solos of this new era for Madness. Could they find themselves in the hearts of Brits all over the country? Not at all, they will cling to Our House and Nightboat to Cairo as though they were gospel, likely missing the charming density found in this new EP. It heads up a steady return for Madness into a modern funk element.
Much of this new stretch is found nicely pocketed on What On Earth Is It (You Take Me For?). It is not Madness questioning how their audience perceives them, it is a tad late for that and C’est La Vie as a three-EP plays up the style and image of Madness as the loveable band from the streets of Britain. Whether it tires is yet to be seen, though it is nice the energy they once held has been placated for an album seemingly inspired by the moody tones of the late Terry Hall. Wandering the streets, seeing nothing worth noting and pushing through with it anyway. There is a sincere change in form for Madness which turns them into The Specials-lite, a nice direction for the band which still has comfort within.