Hitting the scene in 2006, Surrey based trio Magic Eight Ball have been playing together for the better part of a decade. In that time, they’ve managed to work up quite an impressive CV, with a multitude of tours and collaborations, as well as a couple of EPs ahead of their first full length release, Sorry We’re Late but We’re Worth the Wait, in 2013. And just this past month, hot off the heals of another stint of live shows, the band – made up of vocalist/guitarist Baz Francis, bassist Robbie J. Holland and drummer Chris West – dropped their sophomore album; ten track pop-rock marathon, Last of the Old Romantics.
The suggestively titled “See You Next Tuesday” begins the record with an unorthodox introduction in the form of a raucous monologue by comedian, Rik Mayall (whom you may know from shows such as Bottom and The Young Ones). Mayall’s tirade leads into energetic vocals and upbeat, cheerful guitars. This is a real feel good tune with an easy, pleasant melody to which it is impossible not to nod along.
“What Happened in ’92” is just as loud and charming, featuring an infectious riff that repeats through the verses. Francis’s vocal delivery – both on this song and the album in general – is rich with enthusiasm. There’s very much a sense that he’s genuinely enjoying doing what he’s doing, which puts you at ease and draws you into the music.
Recent single, “Come Get Your Kicks”, features slightly slower but no less sprightly instrumentation. Francis showcases his range as a singer rather well here. While it carries a great deal of light-heartedness, at times there’s a hint of underlying seriousness. It was a logical choice as a single, serving as a radio friendly pop-rock anthem.
“Yeah, I’m Serious” follows up in similar form, while “California in the Fall” comes as a departure from its predecessors. This ballad-like entry features a quieter, more relaxed melody with an acoustic edge. There’s a soft, reassuring tune about which there is something quite heartwarming. It showcases a more serious side to the band without being downbeat.
Rik Mayall briefly rears his head again at the start of “Wait Here a Second”. Returning to the more buoyant sound of previous tracks, some of the album’s best instrumentation work is showcased here, with heavier, more technical riffs during the chorus in particular. It’s a theme that recurs in “Losing My Faith in Human Nature”, which has a nice build into its chorus, but whose highlight is a great, extended heavy guitar outro. This is complemented by a terrific screaming vocal effect.
Another serene, ballad-like composition arrives in the form of “Red Hair Wrapped Around Her Neck.” Things escalate beautifully between the moving melody and the marching band-esque drum beat. It’s all wonderfully stirring and emotional, leading to some splendid guitar work before fading out softly and lingering.
“Good for Nothing Good” functions as an easy power pop bridge between its predecessor and the reserved, acoustically driven finale, “On The Days You Wish You Could End It All.” This acts as a respite from the prevailing righteousness of the rest of the band’s labours, putting quite a weighty cap on things, content wise. Mayall returns once more at the very end to relief the tension with a final thought that recalls the suggestiveness of the opening track’s title and concludes the proceedings with a laugh.
Sporting a delectable concoction of power pop, pop punk and alt-rock, Magic Eight Ball have crafted a record that exudes personality and charisma. It is an album characterised by vigorous, lively vocals and rowdy, zealous instruments. With its bright, enthusiastic and altogether harmless sound, I think anyone would be hard pressed to listen to Last of the Romantics and not find something to enjoy in the process.
You can check out the band’s newly released stand-alone fun festive number, “I Just Love You More at Christmas”, here: