The Mad Caddies have more or less been one of my favorite bands for the last five or six years. I own and love every single one of their albums yet, and have enough Mad Caddies apparel to wear a different shirt for a week straight without re-wearing. Yes, I am a fanboy. I defended the Caddies' last masterpiece and deplored Scott's review of Just One More, which panned a diverse and -- outside of the terrible "Contraband" -- welcome addition to the band's catalogue.
That said, the promo descriptions of the new Mad Caddies had me worried, saying that, "Keep It Going lends itself heavily to reggae and takes the listener on a musical journey from lively Jamaican dancehalls to the underground DIY music venues of America." Having essentially the most talented trumpet player in the biz with Keith Douglas, one of the most innovative guitar/banjo players in Sascha Lazor, and one of the best voices in Chuck Robertson, reggae is clearly not the best channel for their strengths. Their biggest strength since their breakthrough (and 10/10 in my opinion) Duck and Cover has been their ability to hurl forth a wide variety of styles, from traditional ska and punk to dixie, country, reggae, polka, rock, and even forging their own styles like the pirate-y "Weird Beard" off 2001's Rock the Plank. Thankfully, on Keep It Going, the Caddies continue to showcase their musical and songwriting expertise with another great, albeit reggae-heavy release.
"The Dirge" gets the album off the ground immediately with the wailing dixie horns and frenetic rhythm that the Caddies have perfected. The lyrics tell of the impending music -- "I get so tired of these same old songs" -- and the short song ends with the ominous statement "It's changing." The band then launches into the pot-induced "Backyard," a fairly standard reggae number that proclaims "You got the cure for your disease growin' in your backyard / You got the answers that you need right up in your backyard." "State of Mind" continues the relaxed vibes, though approaches more of a traditional ska sound. An acoustic lead-in starts off another one of the album's standouts in "Today," a punchy Dixie-punk song that flaunts the band's talented horn section that, like "The Dirge," ends with the telling line "I'm going to change." "Without You" is one of the catchiest numbers on the album with horns that sound a little Mexican-tinted and a steady ska rhythm.
Back in 2004 or so, guitarist Sascha Lazor said in an interview that he was interested and had been experimenting with Eastern European and Balkan music. The innovative "Reflections" shows a lean towards Eastern European music, while "Coyote" invokes comparisons to "Gypsy punk" ensemble Gogol Bordello. "Riding for a Fall" is a cover of Delroy Wilson's reggae classic, which features Duckie Simpson of Black Uhuru. While not the best song on the album, the dancehall dub offers yet another new sound to add to the Caddies' arsenal. "Pyramid Scheme" is an aggressive trad-ska tune that borders on ska-punk while "Don't Go" tosses in one of the catchiest choruses on the record. "Tired Bones" is probably my personal favorite on the album and is sure to please any fans that have been yearning for another "Monkeys"-style song, though "Tired Bones" tosses in a little more punk than the previously mentioned. The sunny reggae of "Souls for Sale" makes it the perfect summer tune and probably the most radio-ready, giving some geographic shout-outs much like Rancid's "Coppers" or H2O's "Faster Than the World." The record closes with"Whatcha Gonna Do," the Caddies' first acoustic solo that features country slide guitar playing drifting through the background.
Aside from the music, the Mad Caddies have always had great cover art outside of Rock the Plank. Keep it Going has some of the best cover art in recent years, though the Dixieland-inspired artwork doesn't exactly fit with the album's reggae and trad-ska leanings. Also, Chuck's lyrics have gradually been converted into a more vernacular delivery, which aren't quite as artistic as the cryptic lyrical paintings displayed in earlier releases.
So there you have it. Another more than solid Mad Caddies release that is sure to be highly contentious amongst the distinguished musical scholars of Punknews.org. Although slightly lacking the aggression of earlier releases, Keep It Going is certainly a musical journey, and one that deserves to be taken time and time again.