Review Summary: The same lot of madness that clashed with our ears, seven years ago.
Nostalgia is a funny game when trying to sum-up an album, as it plays with objectivity. Reliving the soundtrack to your youth or hearing sounds that frame images in one's mind merely spew cheesy and bias proclamations like; "It's perfect!" or "Take a trip down memory lane...". I mean, I was a serious lover of the Caddies in my well-dressed drunk punk days, and personal paradoxes aside, they were to a large extent the band of common ground for many people, but this album, while still incredibly solid, does not give me that nostalgia and I am disappointed by the fact that I didn't have to tortuously restrain my fan-boy intentions this time around.
When your feet are firmly on the ground after listening to "Dirty Rice", you can see a large neon sign spelling "We are getting old". Even though the band has aged like a single-malt, it is just awkward to see them still strut the same awkward moves. I don't mind that Chuck and the boys are getting grayer, but there is a certain sense of maturity one expects after three years shy of a decade in absence. Yet, even though some points of predictable experimentation might alienate the fussy among us, you cannot deny that the horse the Mad Caddies keep flogging might not be dead yet.
"Brand New Scar" (unfortunately not playing into the possible word-play) kicks off Dirty Rice with a sound that paints a picture of Paolo Ntini playing in a saloon, and is a warm reminder of how these guys balance class with cheddar. Now, they have always bucked at the ska/punk template by painting colourful carnival-like strokes, and hearing songs that make you adjudge which damn genre they fit in was always the selling point, along with the velvet voice of Robertson or the crisp brass-work. Also, Fat Mike's presence is felt on this release and has definitely given "Dirty Rice" a lot of attitude in the overall writing department.
However, it just seems that the habit of drawing on various styles to create a very catchy stylistic shamble is creating a shelf-life for the Caddies. The album itself is a fantastic listen, with catchy hooks and fantastic melodies, with a production quality that makes you blush, yet it is all what we helplessly anticipated. Again, you have to note the fact that this is indeed a comeback with shiners like "Airplane" and "Love Myself" breathing new life into the septet, and the keys on this album are way more noticeable, livening up that which could have been forgettable; especially in the very 'Queens of the Stone Age meets Robbie Williams' sounding "Down and out". Though where Robertson's side-project, Ellwood, had serious amounts of focus, the Mad Caddies are trying to reanimate their drunk selves in a very sober way. While still maintaining that they are the S.S. Quirk of ska and punk, their songs have actually become more restrained. "Shoot out the lights" is a fantastic second wave track, but I can't help but picture The Specials, recently kicked off Broadway, lighting fireworks at a beach party, with The Cat Empire serving everyone cocktails in dull yet unfamiliar brass mugs. While all the elements are very natural for the Caddies, it just does not have that thump we heard in "Keep It Going", and we are left with a list of songs which tamely touch on what they and other bands have achieved, years ago.
Is this album anything new from what we have experienced before? No. Is this still a brilliant album? Naturally. I want to give this Caddies outing full marks, glue it into my player, and preach musical perfection from the first listen, but I have to admit that "Dirty Rice" is an album filled with the same lot of madness that clashed with our ears, seven years ago. Ultimately, the only comparative I could give to "Dirty Rice" is that of a woman in emotional juxtaposition, angry yet aroused by her long-time Casanova returning to her chambers after years of neglect, reeking of Cajun and stale beer, still telling her that she looks pretty in that dress.