Released: November 17
Seven years on from their previous release, Madness return reunited and reinvigorated on their 13th studio album.
Veering away from their usual songwriting partnerships in favour of a full band approach, ‘Theatre Of The Absurd Presents C’est La Vie’ also sees the Nutty Boys taking the reins on production duties.
“For us, recording it was the perfect antidote to the chaos of the past few years – we were all there, properly in the zone,” they say of the LP. “It was just us, in an industrial unit in Cricklewood, playing together. We loved it!”
It’s lead single and title song harks back to the ska sound that popularised the band some 40-odd years ago while perfectly capturing the essence of Madness in its examination of the perils of everyday life.
The 14-song set is without question the band’s most pop-oriented in years – with a focus on big choruses across the running – and the songs linked by a series of six brief monologues, narrated by Martin Freeman.
Recent live favourites Theatre Of The Absurd and Baby Burglar serve as a warm-up for the main event, holding back before What On Earth Is It (You Take Me For?) taps into a formula that’s served the group well over time; social commentary packaged with a feelgood mood.
The eerie Lockdown And Frack Off looks back on a particularly absurd time in recent history, while Beginners 101 has a similar effect – if only as the closest thing the group comes to yacht rock.
The last Act of Run For Your Life and Set Me Free (Let Me Be) is a victory lap of quintessential Madness, before closer In My Street gives final call to unity from Suggs. It’s profound message not only for fans for the group but the band themselves, whose working bond this time around results in one of their most captivating releases in decades.
In pulling rank and working collaboratively across all aspects of the LP – alongside engineer and mixer Matt Galsbey – ‘Theatre Of The Absurd Presents C’est La Vie’ is ironically one of the most varied and diverse releases of their career. And that, it turns out, is a very good thing indeed.