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Mustard Plug - In Black & White Album Cover

Mustard Plug - In Black & White

Reviewed by
8.5
Mustard PlugIn Black and White
Release Date: September 11, 2007
Record Label: Hopeless Records

I feel like this review should start with a brief history lesson of sorts, paraphrased from a story Buck Hingley (frontman of The Toasters) once told me. While ska as a genre originated more than fifty years ago and began to cultivate a following in Great Britain, the genre took on a life of its own when it sailed to the U.S. A number of subgenres evolved, such as 2-tone and third-wave ska, which is meant to describe most of the bands in the genre post-1985 or so. Ska developed a strong following in the mid-90s when bands such as The Pietasters, Sublime, and No Doubt ended up on bigger labels and majors, essentially beginning to bleed the genre dry through defections. As with every mainstream trend, ska started to die on the majors, causing a lot of bands to go under or return to the underground to rebuild their fanbases. A few bands stuck around or never made the jump to “stardom” and have instead continued to rock the underground followings they've built up over the years.

Mustard Plug is one of those bands. Now in their 16th year, they've released their last four records (plus a “best of” disc) on Hopeless Records, including their newest effort, In Black and White. Known for being a bit goofy, In Black and White might prove to be one of their most serious (or perhaps least humorous, if you're a glass half-empty kind of guy) albums. The tunes are still excellent, but at times they do feel a little stiff.

“Who Benefits?” comes across as one of the darker songs on the album, with its infectious crunch making it a great opener. Heavy at times, it also infuses upbeat horn parts and a lot less rasp than we're used to out of Mustard Plug vocals. That angst, for lack of a better word, continues to the next track, “Over the Edge.” The basslines and drums thunder in this song, but never quite detract from the horn leads that drive it home.

After setting the mood, Mustard Plug decides to erase the board completely and go back to basics, with a danceable favorite, “Hit Me! Hit Me!” The band fires an incendiary musical salvo with “Time to Wake Up,” a track with definite political leanings, which makes Dave Kirschgessner's vocals, which have always had a hint of sarcasm to them, even more effective.

“You Can't Go Back” is a short interlude that splits fire at the idea of nostalgia, before the band launches into what could become the next great ska anthem, “Life is Too Short.” The lively horns on this one will dance through your head for days. The drums and bass are two of the most prominent instruments on In Black & White, with drummer Nathan Cohn pounding his way through the new songs with enough fire for ten albums and Rick Johnson's walking basslines ranging from bouncy to downright earsplitting. We hear the latter on “Puddle of Blood,” when he teams up with the horn section of Jim Hofer and Brandon Jenison as the low-end dominates the song from start to finish.

However, the absolute gem of In Black & White has to be the pompous, ass-kicking sing-along, “Real Rat Bastard.” The lyrics range from questionable (“Since you left me, I've been lower than a basement”) to downright hysterical (“I'd slap the Pope just to see your face”). If anyone was wondering where the cheeky songs went, kindly play this one at maximum volume. The album closer, “What You Say,” has Kirschgessner sounding a lot like Fat Mike of NOFX, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's a bit of a bitchy mid-tempo skanker with some of the most diverse horn parts on the album, and serves as an interesting choice of closer.

In Black & White isn't quite the freshest thing we've heard all year, especially in a year with so many great ska releases, but Mustard Plug have defiantly proven that not only are they still relevant, they can lay down a masterful CD. Bill Stevenson (best known as drummer of The Descendants) has done a great job producing the album, especially capturing the band with almost a live feel to the songs by bringing out the drums and bass (two parts that are always more prominent live than on CD). The raw feel to the album and some of the lyrical content hint at times that the band might be a bit jaded, but with these thirteen songs, they've shown that third wave is still alive and well, and more importantly, that Mustard Plug is still one of the most dominant and consistent ska bands out there today.

Buy Mustard Plug's In Black & White on iTunes

Track List01. Who Benefits?
02. Over the Edge
03. Hit Me! Hit Me!
04. Time to Wake Up
05. Something New
06. You Can't Go Back
07. Life Is Too Short
08. Copasetic
09. On and On
10. Tell Me
11. Puddle of Blood
12. Real Rat Bastard
13. What You Say
Listen to Mustard PlugAP.net Profile | Myspace | Official Site
This review is a user submitted review from Tony Pascarella. You can see all of Tony Pascarella's submitted reviews here.
 
Displaying posts 1 - 13 of 13
12:48 AM on 10/17/07
#2
FreshyFresh23
Laying Down the Law
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Good review. I agree and definitely enjoyed this release.
08:22 AM on 10/17/07
#3
shermanology
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The Pietasters were never on a major label. They were on FBR, but that was back in the day.
08:58 AM on 10/17/07
#4
smelltheglove
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it's better than "yellow #5" for sure, but still falls short of the classic's "pray for mojo" and "evildoers beware", which are two of the best 3rd wave ska/punk albums ever.

considering the 5 year wait I was expecting something a little better but it's still got some standouts like "hit me hit me", "life is too short", "on and on" and "who benefits?"
08:59 AM on 10/17/07
#5
smelltheglove
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The Pietasters were never on a major label. They were on FBR, but that was back in the day.

actually, they were on Epitaph/Hellcat for 2 albums before the FBR album. but you're still correct, pietasters were never on a major, but they were on a huge indy.
10:57 AM on 10/17/07
#6
Tony Pascarella
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The Pietasters were never on a major label. They were on FBR, but that was back in the day.
Yeah, I know. It wasn't clear when I typed that because I omitted a word from my final draft. Fixed though.

it's better than "yellow #5" for sure, but still falls short of the classic's "pray for mojo" and "evildoers beware", which are two of the best 3rd wave ska/punk albums ever.

considering the 5 year wait I was expecting something a little better but it's still got some standouts like "hit me hit me", "life is too short", "on and on" and "who benefits?"
I agree with you there. But this year has had some really good ska albums (especially The Toasters and Big D)...Mustard Plug ranks right up there. I didn't like it at first, but it definitely grew on me. The downside is, as I said in the review, some of the songs are a little stiff--not quite as fun of an album as some of their others.
11:27 AM on 10/17/07
#7
smelltheglove
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Yeah, I know. It wasn't clear when I typed that because I omitted a word from my final draft. Fixed though.

I agree with you there. But this year has had some really good ska albums (especially The Toasters and Big D)...Mustard Plug ranks right up there. I didn't like it at first, but it definitely grew on me. The downside is, as I said in the review, some of the songs are a little stiff--not quite as fun of an album as some of their others.

yep, my favorite ska releases of the year are Mad Caddies (which I think is their best album, but I've always been partial to their reggae side vs. their punk side) and Big D, which is just phemomenal. Both are in my top 5 albums of the year period, not just ska.

The 3 "throwback" albums of the year have all been solid though (Pietasters, mustard plug, buck 0 nine). I call them throwback because none of those bands have released an album in at least 5 years and I had semi-written-off all 3 bands, but all 3 came through with strong albums, but not as strong as the Caddies or Big D, who are really carrying the torch for the genre of 3rd wave as far as I'm concerned (along with RBF/LTJ, but LTJ need to deliver that ska-heavy album we've all been begging for for nearly 10 years and RBF's latest was a bit...goofy. I think it's RBF's weakest effort, but "slow down" and "the new version of you" plus the old songs re-done are awesome.

now where the fuck is that new Hepcat cd!? 7 years folks, please, please just throw some shit down in the studio.
11:41 AM on 10/17/07
#8
Tony Pascarella
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yep, my favorite ska releases of the year are Mad Caddies (which I think is their best album, but I've always been partial to their reggae side vs. their punk side) and Big D, which is just phemomenal. Both are in my top 5 albums of the year period, not just ska.

The 3 "throwback" albums of the year have all been solid though (Pietasters, mustard plug, buck 0 nine). I call them throwback because none of those bands have released an album in at least 5 years and I had semi-written-off all 3 bands, but all 3 came through with strong albums, but not as strong as the Caddies or Big D, who are really carrying the torch for the genre of 3rd wave as far as I'm concerned (along with RBF/LTJ, but LTJ need to deliver that ska-heavy album we've all been begging for for nearly 10 years and RBF's latest was a bit...goofy. I think it's RBF's weakest effort, but "slow down" and "the new version of you" plus the old songs re-done are awesome.

now where the fuck is that new Hepcat cd!? 7 years folks, please, please just throw some shit down in the studio.
I picked up the new Pietasters CD at Newbury Comics a few weeks ago, and it just hasn't grown on me like I thought it would. I love Mad Caddies' Just One More but the new one has also had some growing pains (although I'm getting more into it lately).

If you haven't heard the new Toasters album, get it. It's phenomenal. I did a review of it a while back and gave it a 91.

http://www.absolutepunk.net/showthread.php?t=237230
01:04 PM on 10/17/07
#9
smelltheglove
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I picked up the new Pietasters CD at Newbury Comics a few weeks ago, and it just hasn't grown on me like I thought it would. I love Mad Caddies' Just One More but the new one has also had some growing pains (although I'm getting more into it lately).

If you haven't heard the new Toasters album, get it. It's phenomenal. I did a review of it a while back and gave it a 91.

http://www.absolutepunk.net/showthread.php?t=237230

will do, haven't heard any of their stuff since 'dont' let the bastards grind you down'. New Pietasters isn't great, the vintage production is cool on one hand but semi-hurts the enjoyment at the same time since it sounds so crappy.
06:52 PM on 10/17/07
Rxbandit22
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Definetly the best MP release since EvilDoers.

Damn I love the plug.
08:36 PM on 10/17/07
Dan1234
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fuck yeah!!!! Mustard Plug is awesome and i agree, this cd and Evildoers Beware are my two favorites from them. I am so freakin excited about this band


and you guys were talking about the Mad Caddies, Keep It Going is my number 1 release of this year so far and i do not see that changing. fuck yeeehaw!!!!
12:37 AM on 10/18/07
plain white t's
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Yeh good album and a great year for Ska

Buck-O-Nine is my favorite Ska album of the year though
02:01 AM on 02/06/12
edishbonny
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