MY WIFEST ARTED IT ALL WITH HER talent for bestowing nicknames and her love of Austin Powers. Then, the band got into the act, and the laughs (sigh) just kept on a-comin’. “Oh, is Goldmember going to rehearsal tonight?” “How did Goldmember feel about that riff?” “Oh no, Goldmember hit a clam.” “Did Goldmember have a good gig?”
Well, let me tell you…
Goldmember did accompany me to rehearsals, gigs, and recording sessions. Goldmember did inspire some cool riffs, and the clams were my fault, not Goldmember’s. And Goldmember did play some good shows, because Goldmember—or to use the name it was born with, the Spaceranger—is a bizarre and awesome guitar.
Thinking that it would be “fun” to design his own guitar in the style of retro models he dug and collected, Musicvox’s Matt Eichen drew the Spaceranger’s wacky design on an index card in 1996. Somehow, things got out of hand, and a one-off instrument ultimately turned into a guitar, bass, and amplifier company. Unfortunately, Eichen shut down Musicvox in 2002 to focus on a family health crisis. Almost a decade later, the now-revived company was featured in a May 2012 Guitar Player roundup of its Space Cadet 6 String, Space Cadet 12 String, and Strataspear (since discontinued) models, which paved the way for us to get back to the original Spaceranger.
Call it residual conceptual damage from all the cheap European knock-off guitars I lusted after as a child, but I always have a quite unfounded distrust of the build quality of strangelooking guitars. I keep getting proven wrong, of course, and in this case, excepting one minor paint glitch near the bottom bout’s binding, the Spaceranger’s fit and finish is stellar. The goldsparkle paint job is glittering and flawless, fret ends are smooth, the neck pocket is tight, and all hardware is excellent.
Despite its amoeba-like shape, the Spaceranger is comfortable to play sitting and standing. The slim contour neck invites speedy soloing and fat riffing, and the Volume and Tone knobs are within easy reach for pinky manipulations on the fly. This guitar is simply a blast to play. My only struggle—until I got used to it—was working the two on top/four on the bottom tuners. All six tuners are easily within reach, but the configuration threw me a bit if I had to tune up super quick between songs.
True to its name, the Spaceranger likes to traverse a pretty wide tonal galaxy. The bridge pickup is steely without being overly aggressive, and it delivers great “chank,” evoking the cool rhythm stabs on the Stones’ “Citadel.” The combined pickup position provides a balanced bass and treble spectrum that also has enough attack to get all AC/DC on yourself. The neck pickup offers a nice, thuddy low end that gives you a nice boom without ever getting muddy. Knock down the Tone knob a bit and you can go for jazzy passages, although, even in this position, the Spaceranger retains its rock and roll snap attack on the high midrange frequencies. All pickup configurations produce excellent string-to-string clarity for arpeggios and high-saturation sounds. As an added bonus, the Tone knob has enough of a frequency range to create some manual wah sounds.
Eichen really nailed it on that index card. The Spaceranger is a whimsical machine that catches eyeballs, plays wonderfully, and gives up dynamic, beautiful, and raucous tones onstage and in the studio. This versatile baby sounded marvelous on every track I used it on, and I never got tired of picking it up and playing it. Goldmember is totally dishy. Yeah, baby!
PRICE $799 direct
NUT WIDTH 1.75”
NECK Maple, bolt-on
FRETBOARD Rosewood, 24 3/4” scale
TUNERS Kluson style
BRIDGE Tune-o-matic style
PICKUPS Musicvox humbuckers
CONTROLS Volume, Tone, 3-way selector
FACTORY STRINGS Musicvox Custom, .009
WEIGHT 7.74 lbs BUILT Indonesia
KUDOS Excellent build quality. Plays and sounds great. Looks retro fabulous.
CONCERNS Tuner arrangement may take getting used to.