If you take mainstream media as gospel, you probably haven’t thought about ska-punk outside of its 90s heyday in a while. But, of course, it’s still a thriving genre with a loyal following and new artists coming out of the woodwork all the time. York’s Magnificent Seven are the latest upstarts whose debut EP The Good, the Bad, and the Drunk only hints at the potential of the future of ska-punk.
For existing fans of the genre, everything is present and correct on this EP. Brass stabs going head to head with rock guitars are right at the fore, along with the head-bobbing swing that’s part and parcel to ska. For those not so easily persuaded, there should be something here to like (unsurprising considering the Seven are self-proclaimed “genre terrorists”). Singer Sarah’s rowdy, lightspeed vocals are surely ones to be admired, if not lapped up by rap fans – especially when it comes to witty one-liners like “I might be gay but I think I’ve got my shit straight”. On the whole, it’s rock fans who will probably be more easily pleased. This EP is completely raucous, and tracks like Stand Up and Welfare Is A State are the ones which showcase the character of the band most effectively. Throw in the cover of Papa Roach’s Last Resort midway through Hard Times, and a few naysayers will certainly be swayed.
In a more general sense, there are some crazy moments on this record. The entire band dynamic really benefits from not only having seven members, but from having brass, keyboards and a mandolin in the mix. The sound is noisy and textured as well as capable of surprise. Johnny Doesn’t Know is a good example, using the Seven’s brass arsenal for the main motif, then beefing it up with guitars for the distorted fairground-sounding outro. One For The Road uses this beefed-up brass theme throughout too, sounding like a mariachi band on acid in the best possible way.
However, the issue with the record is whether it will appeal to many people who don’t like ska. The Good, the Bad and the Drunk is a complete assault to the ears – the audio equivalent to being flung across a room again and again. While aforementioned aspects of these songs may appeal to certain types of fans, it’s highly unlikely that the entire package will appeal to the majority. Moments where everything is completely likeable aren’t hugely common (whether it’s problems with repetitiveness, inability to hear the brilliant lyrical storytelling due to delivery or single musical lines), and there’s a certain fuzz surrounding it that keeps the Magnificent Seven’s new-to-recording status front of mind. Of course it’s clear that this EP is not meant to be pristine and just an outlet for creativity and having a laugh, but as a comprehensive listen from an outsider’s perspective this seems to be a love-it-or-hate-it type release, as ska can be as a genre at times.
It’s important to note that the glistening aspects of this EP – the innovation, the storytelling, the likability – are enough to oversee any of these issues and keep interests piqued until the end. For the niche market it’s clearly aimed at, The Good, the Bad and the Drunk is a huge wedge in the door for the Magnificent Seven. It’s confident and shedloads of fun (especially for a debut release), which is something that the music industry is gagging for right now. Perhaps it’s not built for major record label deals and chart success, but the loyal fanbase the Seven already have is sure to grow thanks to this.