The nutty second wave ska band were a pioneer force in the two-tone genre. Along with the Specials they shaped the first ska revival in Britain and help bring Ska to more people. They were an oddity in the two-tone ska world with all white members, but they were still respected and made good music. Most known for their hit Our House in the US, Madness were a big hit in Britain, and a favorite of many people.
One Step Beyond was the debut album from Madness and the album everybody who knows a little about Madness is familiar about. It has a lot of their most known, and best songs such as the title track "One Step Beyond", the tribute to Prince Buser "The Prince", and the popular single "Night Boat to Cairo". All these tracks add to a fantastic album from the British ska boys.
1. One Step Beyond
The song is a complete instrumental cover of a Prince Buster song, showcasing the talents of the Madness horn players. It starts off with a spoken intro by Suggs, and straight into the amazing saxophone playing, with great ska riff backing by the guitar, bass, and piano. Interment throughout the song Suggs will shoutout "One Step Beyond" This is a great song to just grove to and have a great time. The same riff reaps after it finishing, but not a repetitive rate, it stills holds its grove. Suggs does add little vocal noises to the music, but it is a great instrumental piece and a great opener to the album. 5/5
2. My Girl
Starts off with a piano and guitar intro, with the horn coming in with a single note. Then straight into the ska riffs from piano and guitar. The lyrics are telling a story, as most Madness songs do. They tell of a boy whose girl is mad at him for not wanting to go anywhere. The song has a nice grove to it. It also has a real pop sound which would make it great for the band to gain popularity in the charts from. About 1:30 there is a good piano solo, and back to the regular verse. There is a bit of a call and response between Suggs and the horn players. A good song, really suited for a chart hit. 4/5
3. Night Boat to Cairo
Starts straight off with a boat horn blasting. Then into a upbeat and somewhat ominous intro. Bouncy ska riff and a good line from the horns. The horns are really good in the beginnings, easy to start humming all day, just like in One Step Beyond. This song was a chart hit for Madness as well, but doesn't have the pop sound and ballad sound of My Girl. I really like the horns in this song, they are really well executed. A lot of song is just a solo from the sax, preformed really well. A really nice rhythm, but could be hard to dance to. Although the end gets a bit easier to keep a beat to. 5/5
4. Believe Me
Starts quickly off with a quirky piano intro and a little sax work. The lyrics are a ballad, well written. The song is really heavy on the piano, and not a very ska sounding song. More reminiscent of the 60s and 70s Brit pop. There is a good sax solo in the middle. The sax player is a really talented one, pulling off really groove heavy lines. There is a little back up singing with Suggs, giving the song even a more pop sound. As a pop song it is good, but when compared to other Madness and their ska sound, its just not very appealing to me. 4/5
5. Land of Hope and Glory
Starts off with a very military-like drum beat. With gabbering in the back, the guitar goes. But then just the bass and drums comes in when someone yells out Attention. The lyrics have a military feel to them. The guitar has come back, but no horns. The beat is really good, upbeat and ska. The lyrics are a little hard to make out, the instruments are more heavy then the vocals. A good song for its beat, but the lyrics were just hard to make out. 4.5/5
6. The Prince
A tribute to their biggest influence, Prince Buster. The music is really ska heavy, and a good way to pay tribute to one of most influential music in ska. The lyrics tell the story of the Prince on the streets in Jamaica. There is a catchy little piano riff played a few times in the song that I really like. It sounds like a lot island music, like Jamaican Calypso maybe. The sax comes in this song too, with a great solo. There is a big instrumental break down long after the solo, with the sax playing the spotlight, but the other instruments also are great. 5/5
7. Tarzan's Nuts
Starts with a jungle like beat, with jungle sounds coming a little bit in. There is a really good bass line that sounds familier but I can't put my finger on it. It goes straight into the guitar riff that is really ska sounding and really good. The piano plays along with the guitar, but instead of playing on the upbeats it plays a little solo line of its own. This may just be the piano's way of getting back at the horns for having the spotlight in One Step Beyond. A really good showing from the piano, may give that saxophonist a run for his money. 5/5
8. In the Middle of the Night
Starts off with the sounds of a street, and some shouts. The music starts with a lonely guitar and Suggs singing in a story telling way. All the instruments join in eventually, with the piano sounding more ska then any of the other instruments. The bass can be heard well in this song, and its playing a really good little line. The lyrics are really absurd and if you aren't paying attention, you won't see them. The song is actually about the knicker thief who strikes in the middle of the night, and how he gets to his prize. This song really shows the nuttiness from the band frequently renamed as "The Nutty Boys" Also one of the reasons I love them is their absurdness. 5/5
9. Bed and Breakfast Man
The intro of this song sounds really britpop with a bit of a ska influence, mainly from the guitar playing upstrokes. It has a good beat to it, but its missing the ska I love. The lyrics from what I can make out are pretty good however, telling a story about a man who needs a bed. There is a little piano solo that is pretty good, but again really britpop sounding. The guitar still sounds really out of place playing ska upstrokes while the rest of the instruments play pop music. 4/5
10. Razor Blade Alley
Another poppy song, seems like they put the 3 most britpop sounding songs all in a row. They aren't bad songs, but its just not a music style that appeals to me as a ska listener. Although the piano in this song sounds really good, and the bass has a jazz-like tone to it. The piano during the verse sounds almost like the piano work done by Ray Manzarek for the Doors, which is really odd. I think this is a kind of weak song in the album, probably one of the weakest. 4/5
11. Swan Lake
A traditional song as All Music notes, I'm guessing it's from the ballet of Swan Lake, but I can't be sure. It does have a ballet feel to it, but as if ballet was put in a blender ska and put on puree. Another show of the nuttiness from Madness, covering a ballet tune. It is a really good song overall, a nice upbeat sound to it, and you could dance to it and not just ballet! 5/5
12. Rockin'' in a Flat
This songs sort of sounds like a mixture of ska two tone and a really rockabilly song. Even the guitar has a rockabilly solo at one point. The piano is playing a really rockabilly 'walk up and down the keys' type riff. The song is about just rocking out, so it makes sense the instrumentation matches that rocking out. A good song and cross over from the band. 5/5
13. Mummy's Boy
This song starts off with a good little riff from all the horns, responding to Sugg's singing. Then later on playing the same riff responding to the piano. The lyrics are kind of funny too, talking about a man who still lives with his mum, and being exactly what the song title states a 'mummy's boy'. One of the verses is about him going out with a twelve year old from London when he was 30, very funny but kind of odd and creepy at the same time. My feet were taping throughout this song though, very good. 4/5
14. (They Call It) Madness
A cover of the Prince Buster song where the band had gotten its name from. The song really does justice to the Prince Buster original, and why not. If you respect a man like Madness respected Buster you are going to try to do a really good job at covering his song. The sound is very 1st wave, and if I didn't know it was Madness, I would think it was a first wave band doing the song. The sax plays a big part again with a good solo mid song, which points out the fact they are Madness. One of my favorite two-tone bands covering a great song from one of my favorite first wave artists is a really good combo for me. Another great song on this album. 5/5
15. Chipmunks are Go!
The most absurd of all songs on the album. More of a little silly sound offs of the chipmunks then an actual song. It is a great closing to the album, showing how absurd these lads from England could actually be. 5/5
This album was good from beginning to end, with few low points, and those only caused by my own preferences, while many will be able to have a great time throughout the whole album. This is a definite recommendation if you want to listen to good second wave ska.