Mad Caddies - Duck and Cover (Cover Artwork)

Mad Caddies

Duck and Cover (1998)

Fat Wreck Chords

I was amazed to see that this album hadn't been reviewed yet. Duck and Cover is, by far, one of the most underrated albums in the ska-punk scene. It's catchy, it's goofy, it's really, really musical... overall, it's an extrodinary album.

Duck and Cover was released in 1998, a great year for ska-punk. Why Do They Rock So Hard was released, and all of the other ska-punk bands out there uttered a collective "dammit" as they listened to probably the first ska-punk album ever that could truly be considered an epic work. Reel Big Fish raised the bar tenfold with the release of this masterful album, and perhaps this bold assertion of their own greatness halped to contribute to ska-punk's downfall. However, several months prior, the Mad Caddies released a quirky little 12-song album that would prove to be one of the best products of the ska-punk craze.

It's not big and in-your-face like Why Do They Rock So Hard, it's not abrasive and beckoningly self-conscious like Goldfinger, it's not detached and reggae-ish like Halfway Between Here and There (and I mention these three because they're some of my favorite ska-punk albums, along with Duck and Cover). In terms of sound, I would compare this album to Turn The Radio Off, but Chuck's lyrics are nothing like Aaron's, and the horn riffs aren't as much catchy as they are infectious.

In short, no good comparison can be made between this album and any other out there (with the exception of the other MC albums...the closest one to this, in terms of sound, is The Holiday Has Been Cancelled). The Caddies stay fairly true to their ska roots, with several traditional, skank-along ska tunes (like "No Hope," which includes a blistering trumpet solo -- trumpet players will find Keith Douglas to be one of the most remarkable and creative ska trumpet players out there). "One Shot," however, is purely reggae, and is an awesome change of pace. Apathetic is straight punk -- think Good Riddance or Sick of It All, or maybe Strung Out. "Medium Unwell" is the token scary song that every good ska-punk album must have (think "Skatanic)... and seriously, the horn riffs are pretty scary. "Macho Nachos" is an accessible punk-with-horns number that was featured in some snowboarding game for PlayStation or something. The Mad Caddies actually enjoy DixieLand music, too, and this comes through on "Monkeys," a goofy, banjo-laced song that will have you saying "are they serious?" when you first hear it. But listen to it a few times -- the trumpet actually really, really complex and awesome in this song...Keith obviously had some jazz training. I can't believe my ears, but the Caddies have actually made a DixieLand song rock.

"Road Rash," the first song on the album, is perhaps the most difficult to describe. My emo-loving friends have scorned it as "circus music" and called it "simple" and "goofy." Maybe that's why I like it. Or maybe it's because the masterful transitions between three-chord pop-punk and goofy ska that compose this song, highlighted by an extremely catchy horn riff, make me want to listen to it again and again. "Econoline" is another one of those awesome ska-punk songs that integrates both standard punk power chords with ska chords and horn riffs, the way RBF does so well. It's one of the best songs on the album -- the chord progression is just soooo nice, especially in the horn part. "Betty" is just standard swing, with a ska twist. I'm glad the whole album isn't like this -- it's my least favorite song -- but it STILL has an awesome trumpet solo! Finally, "Popcorn" is a chill, mellow song with a kickin'-back horn riff that just makes you feel like you're sitting on a beach in the evening.

Exposure is everything. If the Caddies were on MCA instead of Fat Wreck, I am sure that this album would've made them huge, like Sublime/No Doubt huge. Keith Douglass is the most ridiculous ska trumpeter I've ever heard. Chuck writes awesome lyrics and can definitely sing, too. The rest of the band is good; there are no weak spots, although Keith and Chuck tend to overshadow everyone else. The songwriting is awesome, soooo much better than most of the "punk" crap that the major labels are pumping out these days. If you haven't heard the Caddies yet, THIS is the album to get (Quality Softcore is fun but unpolished, The Holiday Has Been Cancelled is also excellent, but is mad short, and Rock The Plank, while a well-written album, doesn't have the goofy, ska-punk charm of this work). The Caddies have a new album coming out soon, and Keith was reported to have said that it sounds the most like this one. That's the best news I've heard since the first time I ever listened to this diamond in the dust. Duck and Cover is exactly the type of album that will make you wish that it was 1997 again. Ska-punk at it's finest.