Even though these tracks span a time nearly fifteen years ago to the somewhat-present, the tracks at all times on “Masterpieces: 1991-2002” sound as fresh and as vital as if Mustard Plug just recorded them. The term “ska” is used by many individuals to really tie a band down to a specific (often-times Mighty Mighty Bosstones-like) sound, but Mustard Plug should really show anyone listening in that ska can be as diverse and different sounding from song to song as any other genre.
Mustard Plug does insert one common thread into all of their tracks, though; each of the “works of art” on “Masterpieces” is as radio-friendly as they come, even when the tracks include virtuosic arrangements (such as the soulful bass during “Lolita”.) Even if the tracks fail to ignite the fire in listeners’ stomachs (some tracks may just not be as appealing as others), the simple fact is that each of Mustard Plug’s songs end before the three-minute mark, and individuals just have to sit through a few seconds of unpleasantness before Mustard Plug try their hardest from a different approach. Lead vocalist Dave Kirchgessner achieves a Vandals/Offspring style of vocals at times during “Masterpieces”; this technique is most successful during “Just A Minute”. “You” has a slightly-harder, rock-infused edge to it that really changes the dynamic of the track. When the horns are placed after the crunchier guitars, it recontextualizes them in a way that makes them feel more intense. The straggled, gruff vocals present on the track really give the track a proper cherry.
The upbeat tempo enjoyed by “Masterpieces” is perhaps the one thing that most music that comes out now lacs sorely; so many bands would rather spew angsty lyrics and depressing rhetoric that it is really surprising and delightful when someone brings a little sunshine to popular music. While there is always a certain quality to the production values during Mustard Plug’s music on “Masterpieces”, there is a fairly-noticeable upswing in the bombast and power that the mass of music has when it leaves the CD. Overall, until the new album comes out, “Masterpieces” is an absolutely essential purchase. While there are not any tracks created for this CD, it should be an essential buy for anyone who really wants a good, current ska band to look up to (well, a famous one to look up too – there are a number of delightful up and coming ska acts like KevinGoes2College). Pick it up.
Top Tracks: Mendoza, Yesterday
Mustard Plug – Masterpieces: 1991-2002 / 2005 Hopeless Records / 19 Tracks / http://www.mustardplug.com / >http://www.hopelessrecords.com / Reviewed 21 September 2005