Madness is the kind of band that have been acting their shoe sizes (i.e. not their ages) for nigh on 36 years. And that’s why people love ‘em. Now with album number ten the rather silly-named, Oui Oui, Si Si, Ja Ja, Da Da (translated as “Yes” eight times) we get more of the nutty and much-loved ska/pop the group have produced over the years in hits like ‘House Of Fun’, ‘Baggy Trousers’ and ‘Our House’.

The boys show no signs of slowing down just yet, having previously played such high-profile gigs as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the closing ceremony of the London Olympics. One might say they’re an English institution as they evoke nostalgia and leave a trail of good times in their path. For this record they hoped to make a “London pop album with real density and quality” and on at least some of these points the answer is an emphatic, “Yes!”

‘My Girl 2’ is offered here twice in both a remixed and an original form. The latter cut opens the album with the almost gobbledegook-like repetition of the affirmations evident in the record’s title, while also telling you the story of a smitten guy. The music is a kind of bubblegum pop mix that makes you think of The Monkees but with a more eighties feel than those sixties heartthrobs. In fact you don’t have to listen too closely to hear Soft Cell’s ‘Tainted Love’ also thrown into the mix.

From the eighties the band then travels back even further to the seventies and specifically to the disco era on ‘Never Knew Your Name’. This one sounds like it was an extra off the Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack, a fun track that certainly doesn’t signal what follows on ‘La Luna’. The latter has plenty of clip-clopping brass, whistles and a mariachi band. Yes, you read that last part right and sure it’s an unexpected addition, but it works because of its madcap jolliness.

One of the standout cuts here is ‘How Can I Tell You’, otherwise known as some exuberant pop you can sing along to. A simple tale of unconditional love, this one is worth the admission price alone just to hear lyrics like: “The last chocolate in the box” and “The time I stuck an ice-cream in your face”. These are such happy and relatable images that they’re guaranteed to invoke some long, past memories for you. And you’ll also feel like they should’ve been included in an old ad for a telephone company where you’re reminded to give the old folks a call. Such is life.

The cream was certainly placed in the first half of the record because from here the guys veer off-track with some reggae in ‘Kitchen Floor’; The Specials-esque ‘Death Of A Rude Boy’ and the overblown and rather trite, ‘Misery’. This one is definitely the album’s weakest track as clichés are coupled with a fairground feel that takes things simply too far, a shame as one imagines it could’ve been as good as a sunny Split Enz number.

Oui Oui, Si Si, Ja Ja, Da Da is a melodic record full of amusing moments and catchy hooks made all the better by some good, clean production. This offering proves the guys are still young at heart as they produce a relatively consistent album full of layered pop guaranteed to raise a smile or ten during its finer moments of quirky mischief and amiable irreverence. In short, this is all a casual and rather mad affair that will have you beaming “Yes” more often then you shake your head, “No” and not just because the album says so.

Originally published on 22 November 2012 at the following website:

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