Sound — 9
Softcore ska-punk is all about having a good time and making the best with what life delivers on Mad Caddies 6th studio album Keep It Going from Fat Wreck Chords. Their medley of Latin-funk, calypso-swing, and urban-punk with ska blasts has jazz overtones from the trumpet vamps of Keith Douglas and trombone spirals of Ed Hernandez. Lead singer Chuck Robertson creates a zesty rapport with rock guitarist Sascha Lazor as their hip-swaying combinations move into the toe-tapping swells of drummer Brian Flenniken. The quintet who come from Santa Barbara, California have a record loaded with punk-rock registers, samba rhythms, and ska driven vocal taps. The paso doble steps in Reflections have exciting dynamics and the calypso-swings accenting the ska-punk froths on Without You get the adrenaline pumping. The tempo breaks in State Of Mind give the rapid rhythms moments to chill and offer the ambient guitar licks a chance to shine. There are clips of polka rhythms traipsing through Coyote and fleshy punk-jazz grooves on Tired Bones. There are a few mid-tempo ska-rock numbers like Lay Your Head Down and Pyramid Scheme which are reminiscent of No Doubt and Lily Allen. The charming ditty Souls For Sale has soft-punk grips with reggae textures and upbeat vocal movements displaying soul and an infectious perkiness. The band also gels acoustic folk-rock guitar spreads with Robertson's husky vocal tones and ska-punk grooves on tracks like Whatcha Gonna Do, Today, and Riding For A Fall. The entire album is really well put together with sing along melodies that give the Mad Caddies a wider repertoire to sink their talents into while keeping their slant for fun.
Lyrics — 9
The lyrics provide advice on how to dispel human worries like overcoming insecurities, picking yourself up after falling on your face, and reinforcing self-esteem after getting caught up in a bad situation. The lyrics for State Of Mind recite, We walk alone through this strange life/ It can be so cold sometimes, whoa/ Just close my eyes and remember/ If you search you just might find/ I'm talking about the right state of, the right state of mind. Like a lot of reggae music, the lyrics connect people on an emotional level. The lyrical phrases maintain a positive outlook and a jubilant mood that matches the springy softcore ska-punk rhythms.
Overall Impression — 9
There is a new maturity blossoming in the Mad Caddies ska-punk convergences that was not there in their previous release Just One More from 2003. Where Sugar Ray stopped from stepping over the line into a more mature ska-punk delivery, Mad Caddies proceeded and welcomed the journey. Their textures are richer for it with soul-funk, reggae-folk, and even polka dotting their ska-punk grooves. The album is about fun with a more polished sound that has similarities to The Cat Empire. The band has come a long way since their debut album Quality Softcore in 1998, but they haven't stopped the fun or their positive attitude.