Mustard Plug - Where Did All My Friends Go? (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Mustard Plug

Where Did All My Friends Go? (2023)

Bad time

Here’s why Mustard Plug has managed to kick it out for more than three decades while their contemporaries (and even followers) have crumbled apart: High energy, melodic, smart ska punk. The band’s new album, Where Did All My Friends Go, their first in almost ten years, continues this trend.

Deftly, the band is able to juggle their core style while moving into new territory. Of course, the meat of the album is pumping two tone and horn ska. And to the band’s great credit, it still sounds like they’re having a blast. This is probably due to the fact that they are seeing how much weirdness they can twist into that pounding blue beat. One of the album’s standouts, “Vampire,” throws a little Special’s “Ghost Town” and Oingo Boingo into the mix. The song is a metaphor about bloodsuckers, but it also has a sort of fun ‘50s sci-fi skip while keeping a bit of danger underneath. Also, I love anything that calls back to Jamaican/Rasta usage of Vampires and Duppies.

And that track alone underscores why MP’s new album is so well done. Sure, the music is fun and skippy, but every track has brains and emotion below. The title track contemplates growing older and dealing with the pressures of life when life isn’t so fun. “Why does it have to be so hard” is along the same lines and it sets that grey concept over a bouncy beat that reminds me of those classic instrumental Upsetter singles.

Mustard Plug have matured but stayed true to themselves. Just listen to “Reel Youth Face” which could easily pass for a Madness track- which I consider to be a great compliment, mind you. Madness matured with grace, too, but in doing so, they morphed from ska to… radio adult contemporary? Mustard Plug is most definitely STILL ska, but they’re breaking new emotional ground all while staying true to that timeless beat. THIS is how you function as a ska band for three decades.