Monday, December 27, 2010

Overdone

'Overdone' was a song on the album Absolutely, by Madness. It's the 11th track on the CD and it tells quite the tale.
This is my review on this song.

Note: Beware of volume problems - the only version I could find has a volume that rises and lowers all the time. Also note that of the whole band, Lee Thompson, the song's writer, isn't in this picture for some reason.


The album Absolutely is probably one of Madness's darker albums. Songs like 'Embarrassment,' which talks about huge mistakes that affect the whole family (such as unwanted pregnancy), 'Not Home Today,' about a man wrongly convicted and off to jail, 'Take it or Leave it,' seemingly about someone who can't find his niche in life, 'Shadow of Fear,' which talks about the wrestle with someone's inner, perhaps dark, conscience, 'Disappear,' which apparently, at least to me, talks about someone who is largely ignored and uncared for (makes me think of Charlie Brown sometimes), 'Overdone,' 'In the Rain,' about a meeting that never happens and the person is stood up in the rain, and 'You Said,' which is all about relationship problems. 


The only bright, cheerful numbers seem to be 'E.R.N.I.E.' (about the prospect of winning the lottery), 'Close Escape' (a bouncy, fun number which is a continuation of the story of nice man George, the underwear thief, from 'In the Middle of the Night,' on the previous album), 'On the Beat Pete' (a fast synopsis of the average day in the life of a jolly fat policeman), 'Baggy Trousers' (the memories of crazy days in school), and 'Return of the Los Palmas 7' (an instrumental that's just nice to listen to).


I am not sure why the band wrote an album with such dark material. The music is pretty good and fast, more ska-influenced than pop-influenced, though the lyrics are quite grown-up.


As for 'Overdone,' the song appears to be about a shady character who has come to terms with his life and realizes how ungrateful he has been, particularly to his meaningful parents. It seems to paint the unfortunate life of a con man or illegal business dealer. He always seems to look forward but knows he's a 'selfish bastard.' He does not keep any contact with his parents and knows they are ashamed of him.
This song is his plea for them to forgive him for who he is.


"Please forgive me for the things that I've done
don't feel ashamed if you're asked 'how's your son?'"


Basically the verses of the song paint his life as someone who moves around a lot, likely to avoid authorities, or because he is essentially homeless, and deals. Someone who only does things for his personal gain. Then the choruses outline his plea for forgiveness...and his ultimate need to have a response from his parents and loved ones.


"To drop a line, say 'hello dad,' I await your answer
I also...beg."


You can really see the desperation in this...especially how the singer pauses, hesitates before saying the word 'beg.' He is uncomfortable and embarrassed to reveal that normality in his life.


What's the most important in this song his is ultimate message - he has now overcome his ways and wants to make up for what he did, and asks for forgiveness. To his parents and probably everyone else as well. Originally he mentions often getting caught but never caring, and now all he cares about is writing to his parents, and if they can't respond, he'll still beg. This fast bit near the end is quite compelling:


"Running here and running there,
often caught but never cared
been courting every year
should have been a courtier
I'll understand if it'll matter
if you don't write, I'll still beg
you understand, I will mom
if you can't write, I'll still beg"


It's quite sad. After that crashy-shout out, the last verse ends with this:


"A letter's come, she has replied
read two years ago your mother...died."


Again, the voice and hesitation says it all. In the end, it's about an unfortunate person's reformation at a time that is too late to redeem anything. He missed his opportunity, lost his chance. His life is nothing but a waste of ungrateful and sad self-destruction. The song ends on that note, with the choruses repeating without the singer. I wonder what happened to him?


It's probably one of the most emotionally-charged songs on the album. While some have to do with wondering where one fits in the world, or being stood up in the rain, this one really has a sadness to it. It's a little redeeming when you know the singer is attempting to leave his life of shady deals and offences, but the problem is that he is way too late.


I hope I never come to that...well, I think I did with someone important to me, but whether it was too late or not isn't something I can control or know. The song was written by Lee Thompson and I think it has to do with his former life as a petty criminal. Before being the fun, zany saxophonist in Madness, I read this quote here: "It was a fortunate privilege to have met Chris and Mike, I mean prior to meeting them, I was knocking around with a chap called Bobby and we used to get into some pretty serious trouble," he explains. "I was sent away for a year and a day, and when I was sent back into the smoke that's when I started hanging around with Mike and Chris who were not into the serious things that I was into, I think if I hadn't have met them I would`ve gone down the pan!"
Lee Thompson's former activities had an influence on a few of the band's earlier songs, particularly 'Land of Hope and Glory.'


Music-wise, the song's pretty good if not dark and a little repetitive. The piano can get to be a little boring after awhile (which isn't something I'd usually say).  But it sounds very talented.
As well, I find that repeating choruses (without the lyrics) to be a little long as they repeat over and over. Synesthetically it's mostly purple in color.


The piano is a bit sad and the bass is constantly descending very quickly, as if the life of the man is always descending in opportunity and negativeness, into dead end. A guitar starts rapidly playing in the background of the final verse, and it puts in mind a scene of domestic confrontation in a family living room, slightly sped up and in black and white. I get white/black gravelly texture when I hear it, and that translates into the domestic scene.


The big star in this whole instrumentation, though, is the tenor sax. It's constantly playing and reacting to the emotion, evoking it itself throughout. It's the dominant instrument during the chorus and sounds sad and desperate like the subject. It basically replaces the singer in the end, playing loudly and sadly, virtually crying out. It's that sax which drives the song's point home, especially for its writer, Lee Thompson, who plays the instrument. I think it was Lee's message to his own mother and it really shows how talented he is, even when at the time the band formed, he hadn't known how to play the sax in the right tune. He's amazing on this song and on 'Close Escape.'


It's an okay song (not super great due to the repetition) and the lyrics and music go well together. Suggs' vocals are as usual amazing - his inflections and tone, and hesitation, it all perfectly exploits the desperation, emotion and personality of the shady con man or dealer that is the subject of the song.


Lyrics: A-
Music: B


I gave the lyrics an A- because they are very emotionally charged and well-written. The music is a little lower due to my explanations above. But the music is quite well-executed as well - Mike Barson and Mark Bedford (and Dan Woodgate, of course) all did a perfect job, as well as Suggs with his singing. The drums are biting. Really, listen to Suggs sing it if you listen to it - he really turns into that down-on-his-luck reformed criminal. And listen to the sax as well. That's Suggs' assistance and backing singer.


Justin C.

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