Faded Ranger: Mechanical Tonight
As presented on its debut album Mechanical Tonight, Faded Ranger's retro dance-pop would appear to have more in common with the synth-pop sounds of ABC, Erasure, and Heaven 17 than any of today's acts. Produced by Nick Maurer (ex-Greenskeepers frontman) and Neville Attree (Gumption Recordings founder), the thirteen-song collection attempts a merger between conventional pop songcraft and dancefloor-oriented material.
“Be On the Lookout” starts the album promisingly with its hard-grooving slink and quasi-decadent vibe. The vocal melodies are undeniably catchy (“Be on the lookout for a man in a lighthouse / Be on the lookout for a woman of the sea...”), and the synth-heavy arrangement is powered by an infectious groove. Up next, “Going Somewhere” also impresses with its tight dance pulse and call-and-response vocal treatments, while the third cut “You Don't Care” is likewise memorable for its funky house swing. A more robotic, Kraftwerk-styled side of the group comes to the fore during the pulsating “Blindfolds,” while Faded Ranger's allegiance to the synth-pop era moves to the fore during the closing songs “The Weak and the Strong” and “Everybody.”
But while there are things that argue in its favour, Mechanical Tonight suffers in other areas. For starters, it's overlong at seventy minutes, and some songs are less effective than others. On a twelve-inch single, the nine minutes of “Get Together (Right Now)” wouldn't seem excessive, but in the album context the song makes a long recording feel even longer. The one-minute interlude “Wax Orgasmic” could have been omitted at little cost, and the clubby version of Roxy Music's “In Every Dream Home A Heartache,” while well-intentioned, is hardly at the level of the original. “Come to Me” perplexes in coupling a low-funk backing to religion-themed lyrics that reference God and Jesus (“Blessed is he who comes in the name of Jesus...”) and even works into its arrangement words from the wedding staple “1 Corinthians” (“Love is patient, love is kind...”).
As arrangers, programmers, songwriters, and producers, Maurer and Attree impress perfectly well; it's in the vocal department that the group falls short. The singing isn't terrible by any stretch of the imagination, but it does lack personality, something that's all the more evident during the Roxy Music cover. Though echoes of the original vocal do seep into the version, Bryan Ferry's voice possesses all of the personality Faded Ranger's singing doesn't.