Review: Madness – Oui Oui, Si Si, Ja Ja, Da Da
Published on November 9th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Perhaps it’s churlish to demand more originality and authenticity from a veteran group still capable of knocking out a belting pop song, but Madness can’t very well demand to be taken seriously with an opening track and lead single titled “My Girl 2” that sounds like “Tainted Love” to such a degree that’s it hard to ignore.
That may be a non non, no no, nein nein, nyet nyet, but there’s just about enough strong material here to justify Suggs and co’s prolonging of a recording career which has spawned so many cast-iron classics. The self-explanatory “Never Knew Your Name” is elegant, sweeping pop with Bond soundtrack orchestration (a coincidence?), “La Luna” is a pleasing Mariachi skank, and the punctuation-eschewing “How Can I Tell You” has a nice Kinksy chorus to offset the somewhat impenetrable line “Don’t become crystalline / You’re going to have to swim with the molecules”.
“Misery” wields delightfully ridiculous baritone harmonies part ELO, part Sopwith Camel, “Leon” is breezy, sophisticated bounce-pop that welcomes aboard a delicious string and trumpet arrangement on its second verse, while “Small World” swings like Talking Heads’ “Take Me to the River” while observing that “these days the birds no longer twitter”. How well and truly that word has been hijacked.
Oui Oui, Si Si, Ja Ja, Da Da then comes to a close via the brooding dub skank and menacing brass section of “Death of a Rude Boy”…unless of course you have the version with the bonus tracks, which bizarrely might very well be the two best songs here: the nocturnal, swoonsomely romantic “Powder Blue” (“We listened to so many records / I smoked so many fags / There’s still a bottle of wine / In one of them carrier bags”), and “Black and Blue”, the verse bass line of which brings to mind Blur’s “Entertain Me”, and the middle eight section of which is quite brilliantly unexpected.
That the lyrical content would seem more suitable coming from a younger man or men, it’s hard to begrudge this legendary band riding off into the sunset with bold, universal pop music still very much their raison d’etre.
Rocksucker says: Three Quails out of Five!
Oui Oui, Si Si, Ja Ja, Da Da is out now on Cooking Vinyl. For more information, please visit www.madness.co.uk