Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Madness: One Step Beyond [Sire, 1980]
We have entered the era of the white drummer--suddenly every young rock and roll band that touches vinyl can generate a moderately exciting pulse. Of course, Madness's pulse is exotic as well, and if at first I compared them to the Kingsmen, seeking fame and fortune by adding local color stories from the Portland bars to their repertoire of borrowed licks and melodies, that was mostly because it wasn't rock and roll enough. But after I heard more ska, lots more, the exoticism faded, and not just from exposure--I realized that a big problem with Afro-polka was that it didn't sound hip enough, and resisted. Anyway, Madness do it more rock and roll than anybody. Homy and bumptious, they're more purely fun than the most giddily self-conscious power pop. B+