Madness - The Rise and Fall
Considered by many to be their finest moment, The Rise & Fall was Madness' fourth long player in as many years, a workrate almost unimaginable today - not least given they were able to hold back tracks like 'House Of Fun' and 'Driving In My Car' for non-album singles. Originally conceived as a concept album about childhood, the theme was discarded during recording as reality began to bite, saxophonist Lee Thompson penning the Thatcher-baiting 'Blue Skinned Beast' in response to events in the south Atlantic and the post-Toxteth title track a signal the band were no longer content to remain spectators on the sidelines. Producers Langer and Winstanley built upon previous efforts, purifying the essential Madness sound with Mike Barson's sometimes disconcerting keyboard and piano work the frame upon which the complex arrangements were built. Tracks like 'Sunday Morning' retain the dizzy, sometimes drunken quality of the band's best work, proving yet again the band were a more complex proposition than the knees-up image suggested. 'Our House' stands as not just one of Madness' best tracks, it's up there as a defining British single, the counterpoint melody of "Something tells you that you've got to get away from it ..." the sharp stab of reality among the innocent domesticity. Rounded up with a second disc of non-album tracks and radio material - and all at a budget price - there would be something criminal about letting this one pass you by.