by: Madness

A classic example of a second album delivering more of the same, at least on the surface, Absolutely does benefit from the kinetic energy of being recorded quickly in the aftermath of Madness’ immediate success with One Step Beyond. Absolutely does motor ahead on breakneck ska rhythms, but it never quite feels as raw as its predecessor, and that hint of gloss serves the three big hit singles very well: the schoolyard nostalgia of “Baggy Trousers” has a bit of a sepia-toned lilt with this extra dose or production, the terrific “Embarrassment” slides by so smoothly it’s possible to not realize what an expertly crafted piece of pop it is, and “The Return of the Los Palmas 7” has a nice element of swinging ‘60s lounge cinema. As it happens, these hits are the moments that are a tangible progression from the nutty sound of One Step Beyond, with the rest of the record riding that rollicking beat -- sometimes dipping into silly straight-ahead boogie (“Solid Gone”), sometimes slowing down (“Close Escape”) -- but usually delivering more of the same in a highly appealing fashion. Madness perform with such high energy and such a big grin, it’s hard not to get swept up in the good times even if, after the party dies down, the memory of Absolutely just winds up seeming a shade familiar. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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