Sad Hill Media

Film & Lesser Arts with Will Ross, Devan Scott, & Daniel Jeffery.

by Will Ross

Ride - Nowhere
, Going Blank Again, and Live at Reading Festival
Genre: Shoegaze, Britpop

After being formed and playing a few gigs band made an immediate impression thanks to their powerful live performances, great hooks by songwriters Andy Bell and Mark Gardener, densely distorted backgrounds and dreamy, layered vocals. They quickly gained notoriety, and were quickly signed by Creation records, home of legendary britpop band Oasis and definitive shoegaze group My Boody Valentine. Soon, Ride became the only britpop band to surpass Oasis and the only shoegazing group to rival My Bloody Valentine (except Loveless, which isn't a fair fight).

Caught up in the whirlwind of hype, Ride wrote and recorded their first studio album under the weight of monstrous expectations. Even its cover promises boundless sprawl and gloomy introversion, things one wouldn't think a new band could achieve simultaneously. Miraculously, Nowhere's release on Oct. 15, 1990 delivered on Ride's seemingly unfulfillable potential and promise. Ride seemed capable of going anywhere. It crippled itself by choosing to go somewhere.

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From the opening blasts of cymbal, propulsive bass and swirling guitar to the final keens of the violin in "Vapour Trail", the record takes its delirious grip and never lets go, pushing emotion, production, and instrumentation to sometimes dizzying heights. But, just as its title suggests pathos, uncertainty and the infinite, so too it represented Ride's unique sound working from a blank canvas, uncommitted to the tropes of a genre or the whims of a demographic.

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Seagull, the opening track of Nowhere, is one of Ride's career
highlights, and immediately propelled them into significance.

If their second record doesn't quite match the first in stunning consistency, it's certainly not due to any missteps: Going Blank Again tackles music with the same principles as Nowhere, pushing out their sound, making for reeling, epic tracks like Leave Them All Behind and Not Fazed and power pop songs like Twisterella and Cool Your Boots that drip with honey. Again, Ride was not afraid to expand and alter their style without pretensions of predefined "sounds".

At its best, Going Blank Again's songs suggest an opus as memorable as Nowhere (and it nearly is). At worst, it's fairly good - but even in the moments when the new ideas don't seem to click perfectly into place, there is potential, like the ambient intro of "Time Machine" transitioning to a simple, almost metronomic beat before kicking the song off proper. In that case, the sounds are all interesting in their own right, but don't seem to collude into the swift kick in the pants that would make the moment certifiably classic. However, such instances demonstrate that even when not executing to perfection, Ride was continuing to define themselves more by unlocking new potential than dwelling on that which they had already achieved.

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Going Blank Again, the excellent B-Side to Leave Them All
Behind, was not included on the album of the same name.

So it was then that, riding high from their release of Going Blank Again earlier that year, Ride stepped onto the stage at the Reading Festival on Sept. 19, 1992. Having a clear technical control of their equipment and two LPs and three EPs worth of unique material to play, Ride began the set with an awe-inspiring rendition of Leave Them All Behind and stayed at their peak, performing for sixty-three minutes that summarized what had made them great so far. With vocals and playing as consistent as anything they'd done in the studio, Ride matched and in some cases improved upon what they'd laid down on record.

Seemingly surprised by the band's performance, Gardener steps up to the mic to say "This is the last one" before playing Seagull. Though an encore is assured the statement's tone suggests that he is sure that the band's momentum surely cannot continue past this point. But the band nails it, the crowd asks for more, and then they polish out another two songs. They begin the concluding song, Mouse Trap, Gardener again prefacing it with "This is gonna be the last one", sounding truly committed to the statement but still riled up for more. Sure enough, the band completes the song, the set's umpteenth climax and its biggest yet. But at that point the set ends. Could Ride have played even longer and maintain those levels? It seems that the potential of the Ride the live band are as great as Ride the studio band.

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The Youtube video here does no justice to the clarity and power of the live
performance that can be found on the third disc of Ride's OX4 compilation.

But something went wrong, and Ride the adventure, Ride the undefinable, Ride the uncompromising came to a shocking and abrupt end in June of 1994, with the release of Carnival of Light. Whether they stopped trying, stopped caring, or recognized commercial opportunity, Ride gridlocked themselves into writing alternative pop hits, and with their final album Tarantula their attempts at becoming more contemporary became clear. At some point, Ride forgot that they could simply be Ride, and changed from rivaling Oasis's music to competing with their success.

When they tried to define themselves, tried to push themselves towards fitting into a certain area by deliberately limiting the scope of their vision, the band as it existed in its glory days was over. But those first records remain, showing that Ride was at its best when it was going Nowhere instead of somewhere, and that when it got there the only option was Going Blank Again.

Notes on Availability

Live at Reading, unfortunately, is only available as the third disc on the best of album OX4, which is no longer widely available. However, the set can probably be found on the internet for download with a little searching.

Besides their first two studio albums, Ride recorded four excellent EPs. The first two, Ride and Play, have been compiled onto a single CD titled Smile. The tracks on their third, Fall, all ended up on Nowhere, and the their entire fourth EP Today Forever is included as bonus tracks at the end of reissue CDs of Nowhere.

The excellent tracks recorded during the Going Blank Again sessions but not included on the original record are included as bonus tracks on its reissued CDs.
Seriously, it's not fair to compare things to Loveless.


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