Reason #293: Absolutely
What a hard job following up the brilliance of One Step Beyond must have been, I mean, the pressure must have been enormous. That album came out of the gates in 1979 like an H bomb, and invented a new kind of music blending ska, punk, dancehall, classic pop and new wave into some weird and delightful nutty stu. It was a massive success, in Britain, as well, spawning many hit singles and launching the career of one of the UK’s best and most endearing (and enduring) acts of the last 50 years. They’re rightfully beloved in their native England, and Absolutely continued in the same vein as the debut, except it’s a little less manic and contained more pure pop numbers than OSB.
Baggy Trousers, the lead single, could have come from the debut, but Embarrassment, Close Escape and especially The Return Of The Los Polmas 7 hinted that the band were bound for poppier, and more complicated, pastures (The Rise and Fall, their best album, was only 2 short years away). So Absolutely is a holding pattern album meant to capitalize on the success of the debut while gently weaning their audience away from the nutty spaziness and into sophisticated pop music.
As it happens the catalogue of Madness has been expanded, remastered and reissued recently as 2-cd deluxe editions, and they all contain great live versions, BBC sessions, B-Sides (which are all terrific on this one) and more. You should get these copies. They’re cheap, and definitive.