Thursday, May 26, 2016

IF?-English Boys On The Love Ranch (1992)


If I hadn't continued to explore the wide world of 90's house music, then it's safe to say I may never have encountered one of THE most quirkiest-named groups in the entire electronic dance genre. There was no question that the all-male British act that collectively called itself IF? and their one and only album, "English Boys On The Love Ranch", would eventually make their way into my collection, me forever being the ultimate aficionado of all things pop obscurity; it was only a question of whether or not these English boys would become either another casual, enjoyable listen or yet another music addiction altogether. After my first stop at the love ranch, I'd have to go with the former at the moment, though additional spins of the CD in the future could lead to that familiar debilitating infection afflicting my audio senses. Immediately coming to mind after two consecutive plays of the groovy dance opener, "Open Up Your Head", were the sounds of such similar-styled electronic/house acts as PET SHOP BOYS and INFORMATION SOCIETY, with the distinctively-light yet charming vocals of lead singer Paul Wells reminding me of fellow British act SCRITTI POLITTI's lead singer, Green Gartside. Have to admit—it took a song or two before the 'ifs' about this group subsided and I began to feel right at home on this love ranch; after that second one, "Everything And More", their music firmly established a foothold on me, being another great 90's-style house groove with some really cool electronic arrangements during the midway instrumental break. Wonder if this group's name was taken from this album's third track? Or was it the other way around? Either way, they're dreaming of big possibilities with all of their hypothetical references of being rich, both financially and romantically on this mid-tempo groove, although the part of the lyrics that goes 'RX 1-7-8-9' (looks like a recipe for prescribed medication, doesn't it?) raises even more questions about the song's theme. No thought at all required to figure out what the boys are bringing to the table on "It's Easy. Just as the title says, this one is so easy to enjoy, as the minimal, looping words of ' it's easy ' and nothing else meant I could sit back and let my ears bask in the lively house rhythm and all of that fancy keyboard and guitar playing all throughout. The there's a second music delight that's even easier: "Everything's A Groove". Huh, is that right? Well according to these English boys it is! And do I hear a tint of jazz on this one? Serious jammin' to be enjoyed here from start to finish! I was convinced that they were going for an edgier sound with "Persuasion". A rather rough, industrial electronic arrangement that contrasts nicely with Paul's vocals, though perhaps a fitting backdrop to his words of his desire to be a bad boy with that woman he's trying to lure in to his life. Things change up, however, when it's the woman's turn to be bad on "Ride With You"; how fitting that one should be followed by one they entitle "Pony Girl", almost as if to say he's riding her like a pony, in a sense. One song in particular that deserves more than one listen is "On A Day Like This". Somewhere beneath the catchy groove, there's an important message—something about children—that gives the song a special touch. Then it even feels like a lazy, relaxing day at the ranch tuning in to the ambient breezy groove of the concluding cut, "Saturday's Angels"; it's one of those that I'd appreciate just as much if it were a compete instrumental piece with the vocals striped out. Too bad these English boys only did this one album; they created some really fun songs here, and there's just no ifs, ands or buts about it:

1. Open Up Your Head
2. Everything And More
3. If...
4. It's Easy
5. Persuasion
6. Everything's A Groove
7. Ride With You
8. Pony Girl
9. On A Day Like This
10. Saturday's Angels

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