If you’re part of the pop-punk and emo circle, then you’ll be well aware of Hot Mulligan. The Lansing, Michigan group have gradually gained a strong following thanks to two stellar full-lengths in ‘Pilot’ (2018) and ‘You’ll Be Fine’ (2020). Both records were delivered with a sense of familiarity as the quartet blended together influences from the best of both worlds. The latter of two highlighted their growth, becoming more dynamic in the process.

Now, 12 months on, the quartet have returned with a new EP. The five-song collection serves as a response to ‘You’ll Be Fine’. It sees Hot Mulligan in a reflective mood, looking back on a year where the world has been on pause.

‘I Won’t Reach Out to You’ is bookended by two refrained and contemplative tracks. While ‘One for The Boy’ serves as an introductory track, its slow, distant execution still leaves an impression. Vocalist Nathan Sanville subtly accentuates the simple lyric of “stay home”, as Ryan Malicsi’s plucked guitar strings ring out.

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‘Please Don’t Cry, You Have Swag’ however, is more fleshed out. Twiddly emo guitars complement Sanville’s vocals take centre stage as he offers a caring hand to an absent friend. It concludes with the group recycling the “stay home” line. Delivered with plenty of energy, Saville amplifies the apologetic tone ending with, “You said it wouldn’t make a difference whether we could be together or not“.

Sandwiched in-between are three slices of radiant emotional pop-punk. The polarising ‘Featuring Mark Hoppus’ is a catchy, vibrant number that helps thread the reflective theme of regret and ‘Losing Days’ follows in a similar fashion with power-chord driven guitars at a blistering pace. It’s leadoff single, ‘Pop Shuvit (Hall of Meat, DUH)’, however, that shows Hot Mulligan at their most upbeat. Its bright melodic chorus is easy to like, while the familiar structure and instrumental warmth is on par with any band Hot Mulligan have been influenced by or compared to.

 

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And here lies the problem with Hot Mulligan. When it comes to emotionally charged pop-punk, they have it nailed down. Tracks such as ‘Pop Shuvit (Hall of Meat, DUH)’ perfectly exemplifies this. However, no matter how lyrically smart, earnest and hooky they might be, they still struggle with being unable to fully form their own identity.

Even though they fall into the trap of sounding like a host of others, ‘I Won’t Reach Out to You’ is a short snapshot of Hot Mulligan’s praiseworthy abilities. Threaded together by lyrical remorse and forgiveness, this EP plays to the band’s strength allowing them to briefly show off their slower and upbeat moments. Adjacent to ‘You’ll Be Fine’, ‘I Won’t Reach Out to You’ neatly complements last year’s full-length, simultaneously maintaining their progress and potential.

SÊAN REID

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