No strangers to having their songs used to hawk products on telly, the recent Kronenbourg beer ad featuring Madness and a leisurely reading of Baggy Trousers also serves as a portrait of the band themselves. There they sit in a bar: middle-aged men musing on their energetic youth, the eventually airborne sax player Lee Thompson a sneaky nod to their early videos.
This fresh version of a bygone hit, renamed Le Grand Pantalon, is the only track of the 70 collected here not to have already surfaced on CD as part of Salvo’s impressive double-disc reissue campaign of the original albums. Presumably aimed at punters who want more than a standard singles collection but are in two minds where to go next, the anthology paints a fuller picture of a group rightly lauded for their chart record, but who are also capable of less obviously commercial material of intriguing depth.
Keenly-observed character studies (Mrs Hutchinson, Victoria Gardens) share space with articulate introspection (I’ll Compete, Prospects), the chronological running order revealing not just a maturity in the band’s lyrics but in the development of their musical ideas; it’s fascinating to listen to them grow up through our speakers. The DVD features their entire 1992 Madstock show from London’s Finsbury Park, the scene of one of pop’s most triumphant reunions that kick-started a whole new chapter in the band’s story.