Madcap - Under Suspicion (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Under Suspicion (2004)


I gave a pretty cold review of Madcap's previous record and I stand by that opinion. East To West suffered on a number of fronts, but mainly because it's post-Rancid street punk came off as far too diluted from it's 70s source material to be relevant. Sure the band wrote some catchy songs, but their devotion to a sound that has been so driven into the ground betrayed their ambition and stifled the energy that a youthful, committed band could bring to the style. I liked East To West on the few moments where Madcap broke pattern and stretched their legs outside the "fist-in-the-air anthem" corner they were painted into. So it's quite a pleasant surprise that Under Suspicion sounds like it does.

So what's different this time around? For one there's a lack of gang vocal driven anthems, Johnny's far more comfortable actually singing and the band's quite capable of writing hooks that don't require sing alongs to keep the listener engaged. Madcap seems to be drawing more from early Elvis Costello or The Jam nowadays and they've moved their Clash fixation forwards from Give Em' Enough Rope to London Calling. You can see this as new wave and ska influences are very tastefully worked into the band's songwriting, most overtly in the reggae influenced title track and the horn driven "Searching For Ground." The Madcap of ol' would not (and I'm assuming could not) write endearing, low-key tracks like "Lovesick" or "Midnight Strikes."

The real change here is that these songs sound natural for the band. Both vocally and instrumentally nothing seems forced or half-hearted. That's likely the reason the Madcap's old material never connected with me: for a young band that's in it for the long haul there's not a very interesting future as the poor man's U.S. Bombs. Of course the group's current direction is going to bring fans of their old material out of hiding express their distain, however with the consistently high volume of street punk out there Madcap's place at that table won't be missed by many.

There's something about Under Suspicion that I'm quite taken with. I can't really put my finger on it so it's likely a combination of a number of things done right. There's a maturity and confidence in the band's songwriting that feels far removed from the band I knew. They still suffer from somewhat generic lyrics, however their delivery sounds more sincere and that helps. If anything, the band they were may be the one thing holding them back today. In the past Madcap's been stuck supporting mainstream pop-punk acts, but if they're truly devoted to making this new direction connect they'll find their audience in a crowd that's a few years older.