Posted by: Dominic Umile | 03/12/2009

Close Listen: Ride, ‘Nowhere’


My Bloody Valentine’s fascinating Loveless album gets a whole mess of acclaim for its place in music history, and rightfully so. But you’d be a fool to short-change Ride’s massive and melodic Nowhere.

British journalists lumped a horde of bands into a genre they tagged “shoegazer” in the 1990s (late 1980s?), evidently because the musicians were staring at their shoes onstage (and a multitude of effects pedals) when they performed their densely woven, noise-ridden pop. Spurred on by keen observations like this from their peers, writers everywhere subsequently insisted that My Bloody Valentine, Lush, and some others fall under this umbrella — a UK four-piece called Ride was among the strongest songwriters of the lot.

Ride’s debut album, Nowhere, is a displacing whirlwind of sound, boasting brash psychedelic overtones that remarkably never interfere with the Oxford, England band’s proficient songwriting endeavors. I finally now own this recording on CD (remember those?). Before the legendary Laptop Crash of 2007, I think I had most or all of its tracks that a dedicated Ride fan (and good friend) had given me, but I don’t think I’d ever absorbed them in the manner that I’d taken-in Ride’s Going Blank Again, the band’s second full-length (it followed an EP called Today Forever, which appears on the Nowhere 2001 re-released CD).

While the first several tracks on Going Blank Again are immense — “Twisterella,” with its unabashedly BritPop bounce and pristine jangle, would’ve been a good contender on 2007′s Brit Box, but I think I voiced all the qualms I had about that set hereNowhere’s barn-storming, tinny opener “Seagull” is exquisite. At least this week, I like the debut more than I like Going Blank Again. I imagine that the bright vs. dreary textures of Going Blank’s “Cool Your Boots” will have me someday back in the meaty grips of that record as opposed to Nowhere, but for now, it’s the latter for this guy.

The spiraling handful of chords that open Nowhere’s “Polar Bear” (snippet here) are funneled through a pretty serious tremolo pedal; these guys weren’t going to go for that Boss pedal that sheds low-end when you step on it (speaking from experience here; a bargain, but infuriating). This tube-driven grit sounds as if the notes are split into a thousand pieces. “Polar Bear’s” sentiments, however, penned by now-Oasis member Andy Bell, are plain if a bit misty-eyed (“Why should it feel like a crime / If I want to be with you all of the time?”). Worming feedback and hi hats circle the chunky tremelo’d chords, only flirting with actually developing into a full-on song. It finally does, toward the end, in a stompy, psychedelic blow-out that sounds a lot like Going Blank opener “Leave Them All Behind.” Nowhere’s title track, which landed on a pre-album EP before it was collected on the American release of the debut, is just as menacing, rippling with miserable amp noise and background squeals that sound like people screaming. Awesome.

By the time Ride founding member Mark Gardener was 19 years old, they’d been signed to Alan McGee’s Creation Records powerhouse. “We were art-school boys,” he told XLR8R magazine for their retrospective on shoegaze. “I think we were doing a project about painting movement, so we were into that whole thing of movement, and ride cymbals–and we all thought Ride could be a name for this band. It was all part of the journey, and it had a good sexual connotation as well, which is always good for a band name.”

I’ll be posting soon about two more records for my ‘Listening’ series.

  • Check out XLR8R‘s “Revisiting Shoegaze” here
  • Download their “Melodies in Distortion” podcast here
  • Don’t miss Dave Heaton’s interviews with Andy Bell and Mark Gardener here
  • Visit the “Sounds” section of this ridiculously voluminous fan site to download Ride’s 1992 set in Milan here

Responses

  1. Nowhere is one of the greatest records. I saw them play when I was like 15 or something and it was way WAY over my head at the time, but I always knew that this one of the greatest bands I would ever get to see. Being older and I suppose wiser now, I have to think that Ride was light years ahead of so many of their contemporaries in the “Shoegazer” movement. There was a recording quality that a lot of the other bands Chapterhouse, MBV, early JMAC, just didn’t have. A crispness to the vocals, an overdriven but understandable guitar. I was listening to this record not too long ago and I had wished that I was a little more with it when I saw them all those years ago.
    Good work Umile.

  2. Thanks for reading, Ben, and for your response. I never had the opportunity to see this band, and I was far more familiar with MBV before I knew about Ride’s work. I did see Mark Gardener years later at the Khyber in Philly, and he put on a great show. Thanks again for your contribution here. Been listening a great deal to Slowdive’s “Just for a Day” and “Souvlaki” lately, too. Have those? They’re really great.


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