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Madness:: The Liberty Of Norton Folgate (Album Review)

“We are London,” contends Suggs on the bouncy tune of that name, which opens Madness’s first studio album in a decade. Of all the bands in the capital, his sprightly survivors have a better claim than most to “be” London, and the quintessential Camden geezers’ love affair with their city is still going strong. On this album, London is the backdrop for little dramas about capitalism’s deleterious effects (Clerkenwell Polka), departed friends (NW5) and the East End’s status as a haven for artists and eccentrics (the title track). The songs are wordy and disappointingly light on the knock ’em dead catchiness that was once their forte, but what The Liberty of Norton Folgate lacks in hit singles it makes up for in glorious ska/reggae arrangements and Suggs’s perpetual chirpiness, which is laced with the bemusement of a chap who can’t work out where the years went. A graceful return from the nutty “boys”.