Review Summary: The products of a mere "jam session," written and released almost just for the hell of it, turns out to be a goody-bag of quality ska-punk, easily rivalling the Mad Caddies other releases, and pretty much all other ska releases of recent times.
Released as a stopgap EP to keep the fans happy leading up to the release of the Mad Caddies' third full-length Rock The Plank
, The Holiday Has Been Cancelled
is described in the liner notes as the result of a jam session. All I can say is that it was a pretty productive jam session! Either the band were exaggerating, the whole EP was a fluke, or they really are incredibly good songwriters, and ones who perform particularly well under the pressure of short studio time, as this in my opinion, stands as one of their best recordings, and also as one of the best EPs in the overall genre of punk rock itself!
Beginning with a sombre and quiet banjo and horn intro, the guitars then come in and kick the heaviness of opener "Falling Down"
up a notch or two, with the added bonus of some effective pinch harmonics, leading into a laid back verse. One of the first things you notice is how much Chuck's vocals have improved since Duck And Cover
. He was never a bad singer, but his ability to carry a strong melody has improved tenfold here. As is standard for the Caddies, the song is as catchy as AIDS, and uses the old "quiet bit, loud bit" formula to great effect, with some tasty horn interludes, and a noticable blues influence throughout.
Next up is "Nobody Wins At The Laundromat"
, a much more hardcore affair than most of the Caddies previous material, with the guitars taking the spotlight, and Chuck adopting a much gruffer vocal style, even finding the time to let a few hardcore screams. The horns are still ever-present, providing the occasional jazzy piece here and there, and accenting the guitars in other parts. There's even a small keyboard part in there too! Although the heavier songs are not the Mad Caddies' strongest point, this one proves that they can do a good job of it, and is not a track you'll be wanting to skip (although that could be said for all the tracks on this release!).
"Something's Wrong At The Playground"
was the second Caddies song I ever heard, so it's had a lot more time to grow on me than the rest, not that that time would be needed as it's a catchy and bouncy little number with the unforgettable singalong chorus of "We all fall down together, ashes to ashes as we burn this ***er down, on the merry-go-round, the kids are learning, yeah there's something wrong at the playground"
providing a light-hearted lyrical stab at the educational system. Strangely devoid of horns, the instrumental parts of the song are more guitar based with some catchy lead parts, but point towards the toning down of the horns that occurred with their subsequent Rock The Plank
release. In place of the horns during the pre-chorus are some "whoo-ooh"s in the background, which bizarrely sound quite effective!
Continuing the lack of horns, "Destro"
is a straight-ahead nugget of pop-punk goodness, powered along by chuggy guitars and plenty of vocal backups, harmonies and trade offs, with a memorable guitar solo to liven proceedings more. The lyrics are pretty fun (concerning burning down one's hometown out of sheer boredom), albeit fairly unoriginal and simple, but this does nothing to take away from the overall catchiness of the song. Not the best on the EP, but good nonetheless.
And now we come to the secret weapon of The Holiday Has Been Cancelled
, the Caddies' cover of Abba's 80s classic "S.O.S."
Now, the Mad Caddies aren't particularly renowned for cover-songs, this being one of only two that they've recorded, but on the evidence of this, they should be seen a force to be reckoned with!!! Although leaving the general structure, melody, and lyrics of the orignal untouched, the band nevertheless make it their own, kicking in with some effects-drenched guitar, and peppering the song with some incredibly effective drumming and biting rhythm guitars. The horn section replicates the instrumental fills of the original with vigour, and Chuck's distinctive vocals (switching between a soft croon, and a stronger, gruffer delivery) are the icing on the cake. This is without doubt one of the best cover songs I have ever heard, and the perfect end to a brilliant EP which showcases many of the sides of the Mad Caddies' rich and varied sound excellently. Ignore the fact that the band neglected to include any songs off this release on their live album; this should be regarded as a ska-punk classic, and is essential listening for all fans of the genre.