DON’T LET UP
I have been listening to this release for a few weeks now, and I really was struggling on the words to say about the latest release, DON’T LET UP. As I do on occasion, I googled the record and read a couple of reviews to see what other people were saying. Then I found the one that seemed to awaken me to writing. Spill Magazine’s Aaron Badgley reviewed DON’T LET UP pretty accurately, although something he said didn’t jive with what I’ll assume is the intended goal of this release. He talked about how DON’T LET UP will do nothing to win new fans. On that, I think he missed the obvious. At this stage in the game, after 35 years, I don’t think Night Ranger is looking to win any. They are still creative guys, but in the end, they are making music to appease their tried and true, longtime fans that still come to the casinos to see them and have been since 1982 when DAWN PATROL came out on LP, cassette and 8-track. New fans? I think they’ve had several runs at that (albums like FEEDING OFF THE MOJO, NEVERLAND and SEVEN) all failed and forced them into “heritage band” status. They are officially what they are...and new music is simply to feed their creative need and the hardcores that feel like music stopped being cool with the release of 7 WISHES.
Regardless of Mr. Badgley’s assessment about gaining new fans, he’s dead on with his thought that DON’T LET UP is pretty middle of the road. Sometimes, I think releases like this are worse than something that’s just really bad. The truth is that DON’T LET UP is produced well, and the songs are decent. That said though, there’s just no punch here. Where all of their previous albums had a certain energy to them, DON’T LET UP feels remarkably flat for them. “Truth” is a solid song that could have been great but just feels flat. Vocalist Jack Blades comes off a little too clean and controlled throughout DON’T LET UP, which is not how he generally sounds. Having seen the band recently, I know he still is high energy in the live environment. But not here. The band’s other vocalist, Kelly Keagy, shows a bit of wear on his voice as well. “Day and Night” has a surprisingly gruff vocal to it. That may be a purpose move, or might just be age, but whatever it is, it does not resemble the same voice that produced “Sister Christian” or “When You Close Your Eyes” back in yesteryear. Maybe that’s too much to expect.
PITRIFF RATING - 66/100 - I don’t want this to sound like I’m saying “this doesn’t sound like MIDNIGHT MADNESS so it’s shit.” That’s not the case. However, it’s not nearly as strong as their HIGH ROAD release from a few years ago. Night Ranger have always been a fun band and one that I am proudly a fan of. That said, DON’T LET UP has let up a bit. While technically decent, this one lands on the shelf to start the dust collecting process.