Wednesday, November 24, 2010

45 RPM Memories - “Grey Day”

I may have bought this import single by Madness strictly because the cartoon portrait of the band on the sleeve is so cool. Set against a background that looks like a crossword puzzle, it features the members doing their patented silly single-file dance, comic book sound effects like CRUNCH! and KRAK! and dance instruction footsteps. If you look closely, you’ll see the title characters from the “Chipmunks Are Go!” song from the band’s One Step Beyond debut album.

What a surprise then to find that “Grey Day” is such a gloomy experience. There’s none of that infectious energy that made “The Prince” or “Night Boat To Cairo” so much fun. The song grooves to ska rhythms, but is extremely slow in its depiction of some poor guy who stumbles home “black and bloody from my life” and lies in a semi-conscious state. “I dream of people fighting me./Without any reason I can see.”

Like the later Madness hit single, “Our House,” “Grey Day” is a slice of British middle-class life, although the mood here is less - - - well, nutty. The dreary weather sets the tone for a daily grind of loneliness and frustration, alleviated only by a visit to the pub. You almost hope this guy could hook up with the gal from “Another Day” by Paul McCartney and Wings so the two of them could finally find happiness.

Still, Madness makes “Grey Day” work through heartfelt vocals and a well-crafted arrangement. However, the B-Side, “Memories” is a less compelling plunge into despair that’s better left unexplored.

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