Picks and Pans Review: One Step Beyond
The group's name and album title are deceptive. Madness is a reaction against schizo-rock, acid-rock and the self-seriousness of punk and the New Wave. In Britain, where every season brings a new musical genre (with matching dress code), Madness is part of the ska revival—ska being the brisk Jamaican beat of the early '60s from which reggae evolved. To Americans, the men of Madness may seem like Blues Brothers clones. The sound, though, is what the band calls "jokey" and "nutty"—loping bluesy bass lines, King Curtis-style gut-bucket sax riffs, some Herman's Hermits' vocalizations, and dopey piano plinkings. Some malignant attitudes lurk under the ham-it-up veneer ("Lived with mother for 40 years/He must be queer/Normal folk just ain't like that"). But for a good-time dance workout—lazy, boozy bouncing with no need for the sexy calisthenics of a disco evening—One Step Beyond is bracing.