Who are the Mad Mulligans? They’re an NYC punk band who are working hard to revive the old-school oi sound. Oi was always bigger in the UK than in the US but bands like Blitz and Dropkick Murphys, at least earlier in their careers, helped make inroads for the sound on the opposite side of the pond during the ’80s and ’90s.
Mad Mulligans members include vocalist Johnny Kray Bastard Clan, Drunken Rampage, and of course, skatepunks the Kays, Albee Damned, who is also in the Kays, as well as American Eagle with Wynn Skism, who has his own band, simply called, Skism. Plus Rich from Darkside and Brian Martin of Mephiskapheles. The band has a long CV but their debut Who are the Mad Mulligans? is as short as they come. You could probably hit play as you board the bus to your day job and have listened to it twice over before you reach your destination. Convenient, no?
The Mad Mulligans like hard beats and mean buzzy guitars, but don’t call them hardcore! They’re deliberately playing a style of rowdy rock that was important during the early days of punk but rarely gets its due today. I’ll leave you to speculate as to why that is, and I’m not going to bog this piece with any pet theories. This is an album review, not a think piece.
Various flavors of oi can be found represented on Who are the Mad Mulligans?, with each style executed with varying degrees of fidelity. “Knock One Back” is obviously aiming for an early Clash vibe with its swaying, pub-rock rhythm, “Bricks and Batteries” hits you with all a Business 4-on-the-floor stomp, and “Jimmy Got Robbed” rides a light Sham 69 rockabilly rollick. The songs on Who are the Mad Mulligans? get noticeably better as the record goes, both in terms of the way they are put together and the way they are performed.
Overall it gives the impression that this record was recorded in the order it is sequenced, with the first songs written and recorded for the project appearing first on the record, with the more polished and confidently executed tracks slotted later in the track list for the simple fact that they were recorded later. It’s a little unnerving as “Knock One Back” sounds like it was made by a very different band, especially when compared to the tight and authoritative “So Sure We’re Right.” You might also come away wishing that they would have included more nuanced departures like the troubled, angular and toothy “So Sure We’re Right” and the weirdly aggressive nonsense of the search and destroy, skate tape soundtrack backer “Boop Boop Dittum Dattum Wattum Choo.”
Who are the Mad Mulligans? is a short album that maybe could have used to be a little shorter. It has a lot of fun ideas on it but the sequencing and frontloading of the least polished tracks creates an early sense of drag that the album barely works up the momentum to escape by the end. In summation, there are plenty of good songs here, but the way they are fit together makes for a bit of a rough first impression.