Madness: Keep Moving (1984)

Back in high school in the early 80s, I was musically multi-tasking: trying to get caught up with all the classic rock and prog that had predated my late 70s musical coming-of-age; while simultaneously getting my arms around all the emerging punk and new wave bands that were (slowly) penetrating my suburban bubble. Madness, who had finally gotten some Stateside attention with their late '82 single "Our House," were one of those bands I figured I should check out. But while I liked a few songs (like the early single "Baggy Trousers"), I wasn't really into their UK ska sound (ditto English Beat, which I came to appreciate a bit more over time, and the Specials, which I did not).

But 1983's Keep Moving, their fifth LP, got some good press, and I gave them another shot. I ended up liking it a lot more than what had come before. The ska was largely left behind, the band instead pursuing a more sophisticated pop sound (an early precursor to the Britpop of the 90s), like a more baroque version of the Jam or Squeeze. I can't say I've spent a lot of time with it over the years, but I do enjoy it from time to time.

The clear stand-out is "Michael Caine," an uncharacteristically infectious tune, a sample of the actor's voice joining a devastatingly captivating chorus. Nothing else made quite the same impression, but there were some high points. The other single, "Wings of a Dove" (included only on the US pressing), was charming enough, a little silly but good fun back in the day; while "The Sun & The Rain" (another single also included only on the US version) blends their earlier dance beat sound with a whiff of Ray Davies' very British quaintness. Elsewhere, the title track had a nice little R&B vibe, shades of "On Broadway," while "Brand New Beat" had an affecting, playful charm.

The band broke up soon afterwards; they later regrouped, and while subsequent albums didn't get much attention (at least here in the US), I eventually circled back to them at some point and found them to retain a lot of Keep Moving's charm, much more Britpop than ska.

Here's the "Michael Caine" video:
...and "The Sun And The Rain":
...and "Wings":
...and "Brand New Beat":