What relevance [a]Madness[/a] will have in the days of market niches and digital simulcasts is debatable...

What relevance Madness will have in the days of market niches and digital simulcasts is debatable. Yet, it must be said that the seven-strong Camden Town gang have come back older, slightly more depressed and more or less musically intact. Even background maestro Mike Barson has returned. This must be serious.

Except it's not. Not totally. A fine balance is kept between kitchen-sink miserablist tendencies and jolly grown-up japes. And there's a sprightly side to the fairground melodies that rotate around the ska backings, that often contrasts the subject matter. Mostly though, the tales contain sadness, regret, timeworn advice and all that adult stuff. The description of two lonely souls on '4am' and the rueful meditations on the passing of time on 'Saturday Night/Sunday Morning', in particular, carry heavy hearts.

On the funny side, 'The Wizard' does get rather ridiculous while 'Drip Fed Fred''s evocation of the crime side of life has its mirthful moments. And there's something bittersweet about 'Lovestruck''s ode to drinking (the protagonist falls in love with a lamppost). Whatever clown face you prefer, the Dad-ska revival is here.
6 / 10

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