PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Madness: The Dangermen Sessions Vol. 1

Peter Funk

The Nutty Boys do more than trot out rubbish in an effort to make some easy coin, they give us a record worth listening to and a reminder of why we loved them in the first place.


The Dangermen Sessions Vol. 1

Label: V2
US Release Date: 2005-09-16
UK Release Date: 2005-09-01
iTunes affiliate
Amazon affiliate

This will be, without a doubt, the most biased review I've ever written. I can't help it; this is my youth we're talking about here. Madness was my first concert (Warner Theater in Washington, DC) as well as the foundation of what would become my love of "indie" (alt?) rock. Not that Madness was an indie rock band when I first heard "One Step Beyond". No, the term hadn't even been coined yet, but there was something decidedly out of the mainstream about loving ska, and Madness in particular, when I was in high school. I will freely admit to wearing skinny ties and silly suits, to skanking at clubs where I'd gained admittance by virtue of my older brother's driver license, to starting a band called (get this) Sanity 6, to having arguments about who was cooler Suggs or Chaz, to adopting "It Must Be Love" as "our" song during a 10th grade romance. Without Madness I would never have heard The Specials, English Beat, Bad Manners or The Selecter. And without 2-Tone I never would have been led down a path that brought Minor Threat, Rites of Spring, Dag Nasty, R.E.M., Nirvana, Galaxy 500, and so many others to my ears. So I guess it's likely that The Dangermen Sessions Vol. 1 will get a passing grade from me even if it's complete shit, thus tarnishing my hard earned reputation as a reviewer worth trusting. Fortunately, it's not shit. It's even pretty good, at points. The Nutty Boys are still doing their thing, and after all these years that's got to mean something.

The Dangermen is the alter ego for the boys in Madness; really it's an excuse to make records and book gigs without the responsibility of having to trot out "Night Boat to Cairo", "Baggy Trousers" and "Our House" every time they play live. While this is sure to disappoint those who only want to relive the glory days of youth, it's a sensible strategy for a band pigeonholed to play the role of human jukebox for middle-aged men who shout, "play fooking 'My Girl' ya bastards'", from the cheap seats. So The Dangermen were born in an effort to play some unmolested shows and, specifically, to play music in the style they founded the band on so many years ago. The album that results from these efforts is a heartfelt homage to a different time and place. While this strategy could easily have led to an album of pitiable songs played in the key of desperate attempt to recapture a long faded youth, instead we get an album of covers imbued with everything that made the band good.

Consisting entirely of ska cover versions of everything from The Supremes' "You Keep Me Hanging On" to Desmond Dekker's "Israelites" to The Kinks "Lola", each song gets a loving rocksteady treatment: bouncy fairground jutter set to a skank begging beat. It continues to amaze that a bunch of north London white boys can so religiously recreate the feel of a sound that originated in Jamaica. But that's always been Madness' greatest asset: their ability to invest an honest, joyful passion into a sound that at its most fundamental level they have zero in common with.

At 13 songs The Dangermen Sessions Vol. 1 is a bit too long. All the songs bop along at about the same pace, all interpreted in the same rocksteady style, and this makes the proceedings a bit wearisome towards the end. But when Madness does it right it's clear they're still very much in possession of the skills that made them so unique. Covers of The Blues Busters' "Shame and Scandal", Max Romero's "I Chase the Devil", Lord Tanamo's "Taller Than You Are", are all filled with Madness' inimitable combination of keyboards, sax, chugging rhythm guitar, and Suggs' charismatic but nearly tuneless voice. It's a winning combination that only fails when the band tries to be too true to a song's roots (a dull version of Bob Marley's "So Much Trouble in the World") or too clever (Jose Feliciano's "Rain"). All in all though not a bad go for a band that's been written off more than once. Well done boys, you've made me proud.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.