Most great artists have a Sergent Pepper in them, that one album which seems to break away from their normal sound and propel them to a whole different level which then comes to re-define them.
A new bench-mark.
Blur did it with Parklife, Pink Floyd with Dark Side of the Moon, Bowie with Ziggy Stardust and Madness with The Rise and Fall.
The standard of musicianship, lyrical gymnastics and crystal clear observation on The Rise in Fall is the product of a band at full inspirational throttle. Every song overflows with technicolour imagery, from the comfortable boredom of a Sunday morning to the pompousness of those who overvalue their own opinions. Thatcher gets a kicking in the Blue Skinned Beast and we feel the sweat on our backs along with Suggs in the plastic seat of a New Delhi taxi.
That Madness were able to carry this off and still knock out a couple of great pop tunes in Our House and Tommorow's Just Another Day with such humour shows what a seriously under-rated talent Madness were.
Even the cover, more easily appreciated on the LP version, seems to reveal more in-jokes every time you look at it.
The album was, at the time, generally recieved poorly by an audience more in tune with Baggy Trousers and House of Fun and, unwilling to return to the Nutty Sound, keyboard player Mike Barson escaped to Switzerland. The band limped on and eventually split, leaving the down-sized The Madness to try to keep the sound alive before Suggs left to front a Karaoke TV show and Chas Smash got a desk job with Chrysalis.
This album made the band artistically and broke it apart at the same time.
Forget the annual reunions, listen to this and wonder at what might have been.