One of the best songs on Madness' latest album is called "I'll Compete"--and that's just what the English group was forced to do in its first local appearance in more than two years Friday night at the Hollywood Palladium. Not only did it have to compete against the high standards of its own records, but also against the frenetic funk and ska of second-billed Fishbone.
Madness didn't even try to match the exquisite production touches that have made its last few albums such rare blends of intelligence and fun. Many of the group's best songs were either passed over or--as with the wistful "Michael Caine" and the zany but thoughtful "Our House"--treated uninspiringly. This left the show's focus on the nutty ska exemplified by such Madness tunes as "Baggy Trousers." But even these sprightly, entertaining numbers, accented by the herky-jerky dancing of singers Suggs McPherson and Carl Smyth, seemed tame in the shadow of Fishbone's nuclear pinball routine.