Friday, September 25, 2020

With Absolutely, Madness finds its giddy formula

Madness : Embarrassment

On September 26, 1980 Madness released its UK#2 album Absolutely. The album spawned three hit singles, the UK#3 "Baggy Trousers", the UK#4 hit  "Embarrassment" and the instrumental "The Return of the Los Palmas 7" climbed to UK# 7. This is my first time listening to the album and it comes across as a bit of a novelty record and something to entertain the dance hall crowd. 

Robert Christgau gave the album a grade of B- writing:

Just like the Specials and the Selecter, they have second album problems, with the cockneys soft-pedaling the same subject that confounds the two-toners: "Embarrassment," which saxophonist Lee Thompson says was inspired by his sister's mixed-race pregnancy, sounds like it's about an arrest, or the wrong haircut. And though close attention reveals the same class contretemps and irrational fears that haunt Jerry Dammers, no American will suss these songs unaided. This may be localism and it may be songcraft, but it's probably both.

Dave Marsh of Rolling Stone dismissed the band as "a clunky, clowning, all-white outfit from London, their 'wild' sense of humor couldn't disguise the fact that they were little more than the Blues Brothers with English accents." 

And yet Madness would be the ska band to find the most success. Suggs explained why in a 1981 interview with Smash Hits:

The reason is we're better looking, funnier, more cheerful and more easily acceptable.

Never mind the American critics! Madness wouldn't lose its appeal in the UK for at least eight more years.


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