As a band that won most of their success in the mid-‘80s, Madness doesn’t have much left to prove at this point. Logically, their newest album, Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da Da, stays comfortably within the bounds of their already-established style. Overall, the prevailing feeling is, “Hey, haven’t I heard this before?”
Which you in fact may have. The opening track, “My Girl 2” is a sequel of sorts to their early hit single. This jaunty tune with its hackneyed rhymes and unimaginative lyricism sets the tone for the rest of the album spectacularly. But it never was a band of deep thinkers churning out dark artistic statements—they’re known mainly for their spectacular knack for ska-flavored head-bobbers.
So at its best, the album is another punchy installation in a series of Madness albums that are all-in-all enjoyable despite a lack of ingenuity. “Kitchen Floor,” with its offbeat string and calliope accompaniment, is the highlight. Both “Death Of A Rude Boy” and “Never Knew Your Name” have immensely dated lyrics, but pull through on highly-appealing and memorable melodies.
At its worst, it’s a laborious affair. The lowest points of the album are when the vocalist, in resigned and lethargic voices, tries his hand at sharing sage wisdom—”How Can I Tell You” and “Leon” are both addressed to children looking to the future, and “Misery” contains the particularly awful line, “Misery loves company, that’s what the wise man said.”
However, though the album’s one overarching theme seems to be a longing for better days, this flatlining is certainly preferable to a sharp decline in quality. Whereas most artists of their era seem to completely lose it with old age, Madness’ predictability can translate into reliability.