90s ska punk legends Mustard Plug are back with their first new album in 9 years. And it's the perfect blend of old and new....
With the blast from a trumpet, a catchy horn line dissolves a 9 year absence of studio music from Mustard Plug as their signature sound fills the air.
The namesake song for this album is the opening track, and it is very reminiscent of the Mustard Plug songs we know and love. ‘Where Did All My Friends Go?‘ could have fit seamlessly on ‘Evildoers Beware’ or ‘Pray For Mojo’ and nobody would have questioned it. The upstrokes, the bass being in the foreground, the horns….are all classic Mustard Plug and it hasn’t lost a beat. The backing vocals are even better than before! Fittingly, the song is about getting older- as they have been a band for over 30 years now, and it has references to rising costs and being harder to make ends meet.
Going back 6 weeks, on July 28th Mustard Plug shocked the world with a new music video and the announcement of a new album.
What felt a little more shocking was that the new album would be on Bad Time Records. Bad Time Records might be the biggest label in the current ska scene, but Mustard Plug is a giant from the 90s ska scene. This is the kind of collaboration that has the potential to bring veterans from the 90s ska scene into a new and thriving environment that they seem willingly oblivious to.
The video in question is for ‘Fall Apart‘- the third track on the album.
The video begins with the band’s vocalist Dave Kirchgessner running from a masked serial killer, jumping in his convertible to escape, but turning the key to no avail as the convertible won’t start. Looking behind him, the serial killer can’t get his chainsaw to start. The car is old, the scene they are fleeing is run down, the chainsaw is old. The killer takes off his mask to reveal himself to be bassist Witulski Jeff, they share a laugh as they drive off together.
The video itself is great, a nod to horror movies and to time gone by. The song has the musical triumph of the best of Mustard Plug. It’s gonna have you on your feet and dancing with all the frenetic energy of their early music- the play of the guitar off of the horns- it shows that there has been no decline in the band’s song writing. The song is about things falling apart- mostly relationships- but where the early albums might have had a tinge of anger, it now seems to have a touch of melancholy in its place.
Two weeks later the band dropped a second video- this one for the second track on the album, ‘Vampire‘.
Keeping with the horror and comedy themes from the first video, the second video features Bess Rous reprising her role as Kaitlyn from Renfield. She was the girl who complained that what she hates most about her boyfriend is that he loves ska. In this video she receives her boyfriend’s ska album in the mail, puts it on the record player, and plays ‘Vampire‘. After 30 seconds she is dancing along to the entire track.
This is my favourite song on the album- it feels fresh and new and carves out a different sound for the band. The production is great, the energy is great, organs, horns, bass, guitar, vocals…everything comes together. The first video told us that Mustard Plug was back and gave us the comfortable feeling of something familiar.
This one told us that they are still creating and exploring new sounds instead of just sentimental nostalgia ska.
The third and most recent single for the album is ‘Doin’ What We Do‘. This song sits somewhere between the other singles. It’s a lot more familiar to the Mustard Plug sound than ‘Vampire‘ but has a nice jazzy horn solo, some guitar parts that don’t feel like they belong on the older albums, but the overall feel is familiar.
It also features a nice clap portion and a catchy chorus to encourage crowd participation. This song was definitely written to play live, and I can’t wait to catch them on tour to promote the album!
The album seems to alternate between familiar and new music with different influences, much more than I remember from their older albums. ‘Why Does It Have To Be So Hard‘ feels like it has some Rancid influences early in the song- but feels more two-tone later in the song, and ends with a repetitiously whispered begging of the question from the song’s title.
After this, the album slips to ‘Everyday Wait‘ which feels like it was influenced by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and other East Coast ska bands. While I am not a big fan of nostalgia, this manages to all sound both familiar and fresh in just the right doses.
Another favourite on the album is ‘Distraction‘. The drums are fast and the bass is so incredibly good. It is juxtaposed by vocals that feel like they are perfectly broken up and slow to offset the fast paced drums. The song just feels right.
It is followed by ‘Rebel Youth Face‘ which is so lyrically driven and designed to sing along with its anti-corporate messages. The two styles are so different, yet flow so well together.
Throughout the album no two songs feel the same, but they all seem to build into one another in a way that is seamless.
While the album lacks some of the edge and the anger that might have been present in their younger music, the quality and production of this album, along with fresh styles and influences on many tracks makes this stand tall among Mustard Plugs excellent discography.
There are some fun songs that make you want to dance, but the lyrics aren’t all light hearted- some are political and social commentary while others are personal. This is exactly what I needed from a new release from one of the greatest ska bands of the last 30 years. Something vibrant and fresh, that doesn’t reinvent the band, but doesn’t rely on nostalgia
- Where Did All My Friends Go?
- Fall Apart
- Doin’ What We Do
- Another Season Spent in Exile
- Why Does It Have To Be So Hard?
- Everyday Wait
- All That’s Left Behind
- Which Way Is Up?
- Rebel Youth Face
- Now Or Never
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