It is a bit of a surprise that Madness drummer Woody Woodgate has only now unveiled a debut solo album, though given the busyness of the man over the years with various projects as well as of course with the Nutty Boys similarly it is not. Anyway the time has come and the enjoyably charming In Your Mind does not disappoint.
Taking the opportunity to hit the studio with fresh ideas whilst the Magic Brothers has been put on hold due to an on-going battle with mental health issues for his brother Nick, the other half of the acclaimed band, Woodgate has created a collection of melody rich pop songs which vivaciously dance on the senses and imagination. They also carry an openly personal and intimate aspect to them, playing like a kaleidoscope of reflections from the life of their creator whilst shimmering on and seducing the ears.
With vocalist Dan Shears aligning his unique and captivating tones to the sounds of Woodgate, contributions from guitarist/keyboardist Tim Maple, bassist Dan Drury, Madness’ brass section The Brass Monkeys, wife Siobhan Fitzpatrick, and brother Nick bringing their skills to the magnetic release also, In Your Mind swiftly has thoughts engaged as it opens with This Is It. The track is a brief scene setter, a glimpse of life breeding the spark to go on ‘romantic’ escapades, they starting with the following Magic Train. Instantly the song, through keys and a jazzy air, is an escape from the mundane into vibrant adventure, melodies and grooves flirting with the imagination whilst beats dance with ears and feet. The expressive tones of Shears bring their alluring colour to the ‘trip’ soon after, his voice courting songs like an enjoyable mix of Ian Broudie and Ste McCabe, and indeed here but more so across the album strong whispers to The Lightning Seeds kiss the music too. Becoming richer and thicker with every passing temptation, the song is an inescapable infection getting the album off to a strong and highly pleasing start.
A spicy tang coats the following Something, guitar and keys bringing a smattering of country rock to their enterprise whilst vocals and harmonies swing with catchy revelry throughout. A bluesy tone also adds to the energetically creative waltz of the song whilst the brass seducing is simply the cream on the top of another captivating persuasion before the bewitching stroll of the album’s title track slips in. Bred in a sixties pop smile and melodies which quickly bring the sounds of Kirsty MacColl to mind, the song is a serenade for the summer, a warm kiss of pop which simply blossoms in strength and persuasion with every listen, in sound and the just as potent intimacy fuelling the lyrics.
Come To Me is just as irresistible straight after, though admittedly taking longer to find the same depth of reactions as other songs upon the album. There is a strong resemblance to UK indie pop band The Tonics in the song at times, but once the brass free their rich flames, the song soars into celestial climates. One of the numerously pleasing aspects of songs is the ‘simplicity’ of the lyrical side, a repetitious flare which just works, in choruses especially, but never defuses the thick emotive strength of words and intent as it graces the tenaciously spun web of catchy sounds.
The Beach marks our arrival at the seaside, its joyful lure the lead into the warm embrace and festivity of We’re All Going To Brighton. Everything about the track from the smouldering brass caresses and swaying vocals to the energetic but relaxed rhythms says escape, relief from the pressures and boredom of life’s normal days whether as a child or adult we have all felt, its charm and presence sublimely relating those emotions and excitements.
The ska seeded Friday Night To Sunday Morning saunters through ears with a dreamy glaze to its poetic pop hug. The song almost glistens as guitars, harmonies, and brass venture into their imaginative exploits, rhythms in turn bringing their own pulsating shadow, wrapped bait to the sultriness of the song. There is no escaping a feel of Madness to the rich atmosphere and happy-go-lucky sway of the song either, or another potent slice of distinct variety within the album as also on offer in Everything Is Sunshine and its tantalising croon awash with an eighties pop lure which occasionally whispers Squeeze and The Bluebells. The track quickly has the listener involved though it is soon outshine by the excellent Flower and its psyche pop beauty. ELO has reportedly been an inspiration to the songs within In Your Mind, and for sure the legendary Birmingham rock pop band is a delicious hue to the siren-esque majesty of the album’s best track, though that choice does vary from listen to listen if we are honest.
The funky psychedelic tango of Mother comes next, the song a sweltering breath of seventies inspired blues/pop rock which at times feistily simmers and in other moments enflames with tenacious ingenuity. Its success is followed by the electro rock exploration of Shaman where within its relatively gentle hug on the senses drama bubbles away, creative and emotive shadows colluding with emotive energies for a fascinating and invigorating theatre of sound.
The album is brought to a close through Thank You and its melancholic yet vibrant balladry of emotional textures and words. You can feel the heart of Woodgate fuelling its presence and sentiment, portrayed potently by Shears and only accentuated by the expanding and evocative sounds around him.
It is a fine end to an increasingly enthralling and enjoyable proposition. It is easy to assume something similar to Madness from the encounter but In Your Mind swiftly sets that thought straight and just grows with every listen. At its height it is majestic and throughout is one nonstop summer of nostalgic incitement and warm enjoyment, an encounter you firmly resolve to hurry back to time and time again even before it runs its first course.
In Your Mind is available now via DW Records