All that begins well does not end well with End of the Night, and the album feels like a Friday evening that starts out in flashy, big-city clubs and finishes in a suburban McDonald’s. Despite an extremely strong start, the recording ultimately comes off as a jumbled, haphazard effort with uneven production values, incongruous song selections, and generally low musical quality. Following one entry that is well-made and immediately attractive, End of the Night delivers far less worthwhile content than a fan of dance-flavored synthwave would hope for.
Robert Parker has smartly loaded his best track upfront: “End of the Night” is an instantly likable slice of contemporary pop music built around a buoyant rhythm custom-made for bouncing up and down at live shows in Generation Z’s version of dancing. The track delivers a faultless vocal performance with a barbed vocal hook that will stick in the mind long after the song’s five-minute running time has passed. Gentle and prettily melodic synth tones twinkle beneath the vocal track, and they’re joined by a steady beat that effectively propels the verse forward into the infectious chorus.
It’s a fine example of popwave music in 2018, blending nu disco and synthwave with heavy doses of the modern mainstream. As an opener, the song sets expectations high, though anyone hoping for more of the same will be brutally disappointed once it has wrapped.
End of the Night‘s journey from swanky clubs to the McDonald’s parking lot begins promptly on “Rock n Roll,” a generic and lifeless cut without a single memorable or rewarding moment to lift the song from its apathetic mire. A colorless, funk-driven electric guitar repeats its short sequence of notes ad nauseam over a relentless beat while ugly synth tones warble out like a decayed warning siren, urging everyone within range to escape the music as quickly as possible.
The result feels like someone drugged Lenny Kravitz and kept him in a basement for days before asking him to write a synthwave song without food or sleep, and the resulting composition is his desperate cry for help. The music loses its flavor well before it can even crest the midpoint, and four minutes of it is enough to leave a listener begging for release.
Sadly, little refuge from the desolation of “Rock n Roll” can be found on subsequent tracks. “Make Love” follows next with a vocal contribution from Miss K, and although her voice is pleasant enough, the lobotomized synthpop style of the song makes it a drudgery to endure to the end. Robert Parker paints his synthwave canvas in varying shades of gray and brown, and the dreary palette once again urges listeners to hasten onward in hopes of finding a flash of color in the recording’s timbre.
Instead, End of the Night hammers out relentlessly repetitive nu disco-flavored synthwave tracks on “Maximum Strength,” “Satin Cigarette,” and “Final Moment.” Admittedly, these songs are an improvement over the ear assaults on “Rock n Roll” and “Make Love,” and each one at least offers the potential for something special when it begins. The glossy audio production delivers rich bass beats and gleaming synth melodies with complete self-assurance, though each track leans on grueling repetition for its duration, leading to near-instant flavor fatigue. Each song showcases the full range of its abilities within the first minute, giving the listener little reason to stick around for the rest.
Therein lies the achilles heel of End of the Night‘s dance-floor swagger. No new or interesting elements appear in a song to break up the performance, and the result feels like watching a dancer enthusiastically crank out the same move for five consecutive minutes. Even worse, the audio production falls off kilter as the album progresses: for example, “Final Moment” feels stunningly vibrant in contrast to the relatively muted and distant tone of its neighboring tracks “All Because of You” and “I Recall.”
The good news is that the uneven production is buried deep into the tracklist where only the most intrepid listeners would dare to go, and many people will never make it far enough to hear their differences. Surviving the emotionless synthpop wasteland of “All Because of You” alone deserves a badge of courage, particular after venturing past the album’s glut of pale nu disco near the midpoint.
None of this will surprise listeners who endured Robert Parker’s similarly wearisome Awakening and Crystal City releases, though it’s somehow difficult to accept the album’s disappointing nature. There is potential lurking behind Robert Parker’s compositions, and occasionally that potential has the opportunity to express itself. However, any serious attempts to find merit in the bulk of End of the Night are quickly shattered by revisiting the excellence of the opening track, whose brightness reveals the starkly disappointing nature of everything that follows.
End of the Night turns out not to be the exclusive clubs and exhilarating nightlife promised upfront, and sitting curbside beneath the Golden Arches, it’s easy to wonder how it all went so wrong.
Rating: 42 / 100 (Bad)
The Album: Bandcamp, Amazon, iTunes
The Artist: Facebook, Instagram, Soundcloud, Spotify, TwitterFor more info on synthwave, check out What is Synthwave? 2018 Edition and Why Darksynth Deserves its Own Genre
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