Sixteen years in “band years” is basically forever. Or at least, that’s how long it seems like Michigan-based Mustard Plug has been in existence. But like a fine wine, aged cheese or a vintage ride, the pioneering ska-punk sextet has fully matured into a limitless musical machine — all the while maintaining the respect and admiration from its peers and fans that have long supported them.
Mustard Plug’s vocalist Dave Kirchgessner has been there, done that and just about seen it all — most particularly the changing of the guard in music scenes, trends and fads. And throughout these shifts, Mustard Plug has always stood tall, clinging to its signature sound without pandering to the next wave of “what’s big.” So it comes as no surprise that the band is set to release their sixth full-length, In Black And White, with the same passion and commitment to its art, just as they did as a fresh-faced basement band cutting demo tapes, playing parties and slotting themselves open mic night gigs.
Kirchgessner says the new album is a return to form of sorts, as Mustard Plug recently headed back to the famed Blasting Room recording studio in Fort Collins, Colo. to work with veteran punk producer Bill Stevenson (Descendents/ALL, NOFX) — the same studio location and producer of the band’s wildly successful 1997 full-length Evildoers Beware.
While In Black And White’s title may nod to technology of the past, take one spin of the new album, and you’ll instantly notice a record that’s as colorful and current as ever, crammed full of ear-grasping melodies, thanks in large part to the band’s strong songwriting capabilities. In fact, it was the strength of these songs that was the main reason why Stevenson opted to work with the group once again.
Launching with the band’s time honored guitar-propelled ska-punk twist of “Who Benefits?,” In Black And White makes good on delivering an aural assault by bar chords, bass lines and brass ensembles. “Time To Wake Up” is one of the album’s most explosive cuts sporting bold shout choruses, instantly juxtaposed by the syrupy pop-punk melodies of “Something New.” And though “You Can’t Go Back” clocks in at a mere 48 seconds, it offers a poignant musical viewpoint, all the while without sacrificing the integrity of what’s become standard fare Mustard Plug.
But what exactly is standard fare Mustard Plug? For that answer, one has to dig through the band’s broad catalog, starting with the decidedly ska-heavy October 1992 demo tape, Skapocalypse Now!, originally released on Kirchgessner's own Dashiki Clout label, which was later re-issued for mass consumption by Hopeless. Several years later, the band’s Hopeless debut (and first collaboration with producers Stevenson and Stephen Egerton) Evildoers Beware offered a better balancing act of traditional ska with strong punk overtones. The release hit store shelves in March 1997 (a critical time for the genre during the height of its popularity), eventually finding over 90,000 homes, and was quickly followed-up by 1999’s Pray For Mojo.
In 2002, the band opted to do things their own way, self-producing its fifth album, Yellow #5, and three years later, Mustard Plug released a greatest hits collection, titled Masterpieces: 1991-2002.
With an impressively loyal fanbase that consistently asks for more, a touring resume that comprises of hundreds of thousands of miles and countless venues both domestically and internationally, not to mention the bands Mustard Plug has shared bills with (from Fall Out Boy to Rancid to Helmet and even Weird Al Yankovic!), In Black And White offers a band whose exhaustive history practically guarantees excellence. And that’s a hard offer to deny.