Sound — 8
With so many different subgenres of rock consisting of "waves," no subgenre may be more fitting to be categorized into waves as ska. Ebbing and flowing in stints of popularity for decades, ska had most recently been at a noted high point during its "third wave" in the '90s, when bands like Reel Big Fish, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Mustard Plug, and Catch 22 made iconic marks on ska punk music. Solvang, California's Mad Caddies would also enter the ska scene in the midst of the third wave, but as a rookie band, they were eclipsed by the bigger-name bands at the time. As the third-wave ska craze would soon fizzle out as the millennium came in, Mad Caddies would continue to put out well-regarded ska albums, such as "Rock the Plank," "Just One More," and "Keep It Going" (with the title "Keep It Going" being a clever nod to the ska bands still functioning that keep ska alive). Mad Caddies' discography went dormant for years after "Keep It Going," with only the compilation album, "Consentual Selections," being released in 2010; but after seven years, the band has finally returned with their sixth studio album, "Dirty Rice."
From the very start, it's evident that Mad Caddies have come back with some new inspiration and some new tricks up their sleeves when the beginning song, "Brand New Scar," touts a ragtime piano line amongst the hard-rock guitars and old-school brass. The album then wavers between the faster, "punk first, ska second" method of Mad Caddies songs (a la "Rock the Plank") with "Love Myself," "Airplane" (which brings an awesome, more contemporary piano melody in the bridge), and the most energetic song on the album, "Bring It Down"; and more mid-tempo, rock-steady tracks like "Ska City" and "Down and Out" (which boasts an awesome "Rock 'n' Roll 1.0" piano solo that pays homage to legends like Little Richard and Fats Domino).
Though the fast-tempo'd, skank-inducing ska punk is the most captivating of all in the collective of ska music, Mad Caddies haven't been afraid to traverse into the slower side of ska music. Several songs on the previous album "Keep It Going" explored slow-jam ska tunes, and with "Dirty Rice," we see Mad Caddies go even further into an easy-going gear as the album progresses. Once the slow-tempo'd, swingy, brass-heavy "Shot in the Dark" ushers in the second half of the album, Mad Caddies start bringing a more alternative/reggae influence into the fold, with songs like "Shoot Out the Lights," "Little Town," "Cali Song" and the fully acoustic ender "Drinking the Night Away" having very beach-oriented, barefooted vagabond vibes to them, sounding akin to the likes of Jack Johnson. "Back to the Bed" brings one last hurrah of powerful guitars and interesting basslines, but the choice to have the album's sound progress into something more free-spirited and a bit folky is a new side of Mad Caddies that is pleasing to see.
Lyrics — 8
When you connect the dots throughout the lyrics of "Dirty Rice," you can form a loose concept about running away from the insanities of a previous, more hectic life, and trying to live an easier, more liberating lifestyle. Songs like "Ska City," "Airplane" and "Bring It Down" speak a narrative of dissent towards society and the feelings of chaos and unease that can come with being a part of it, and songs like "Down and Out" and "Little Town" talk about others that have suffered ill-gotten fates as casualties of modernity. When you consider that these mentioned songs occur in the first part of the album (with the exception of "Little Town"), the second part of the album contains songs that talk about escaping that former life and living free from society, such as in "Shoot Out the Lights," as well as in the newfound love song of "Cali Song." These lyrics work in the similar vein as the music itself - as the album's sound goes from more energetic and loud to easier, folky and hippy-ish, subject matter goes from dealing with the proverbial hell of modernity to living a life fancy-free. But as the last two songs address narratives of regret of a secret, past life (in "Back to the Bed") and even lamenting abandoning that former life (in "Drinking the Night Away"), it comes to show that it's not simple to leave everything behind and not look back.
Overall Impression — 8
For those that are disappointed that Mad Caddies didn't bring a high-gear album of uncut ska punk, you are entitled to your disappointment but it won't do much good. Though Mad Caddies are damn good at making the "dance and mosh the night away" ska, their choice of trying out new stuff on this album keeps things fresh, and the album not only works well on its own, but makes for a nice addition to all of their music - not to mention that it gives off vibes perfect for a summer album. Whether this is Mad Caddies aging gracefully or simply continuing to compose different styles aside from raw ska punk, "Dirty Rice" is a fruitful addition to the band's discography.