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Monday, June 05, 2006

Leave Them All Behind

Another day, another post inspired by something Frank posted. This time, it's on the great Oxford band, Ride.

Sound-wise, Ride infused the atmospheric glow of swirling guitars with concise, pop-rock songs. Yet they had something deeper going for them that made them special in their day and something that makes them legendary today. In the same company as My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Swervedriver and Catherine Wheel, Ride was considered a shoegaze band; a label I didn't understand until a few years ago. I saw Swervedriver open for Hum with one of the most boring sets I've ever seen. So, I thought all shoegazer rock was slow and sleep-inducing, all while the band members stared at their shoes. Not until I heard Ride's Carnival of Light that my opinion changed on this music.

Thanks to my friend Dave, he introduced me to another side of shoegaze. This side wasn't boring or sleep-inducing. This was some great rock music with an epic feel that didn't feel distant. Though Carnival of Light was my introduction to Ride, I cite Nowhere and Going Blank Again as my favorites. Nowhere has a rather wild and young feel while Going Blank Again is a bullet-proof, mature rock record. Even to this day, these records feel vital. Maybe that's why I take so much to a modern band like Secret Machines. They keep this kind of feeling alive.

There's something enticing about music that is so noisy yet incredibly melodic. My Bloody Valentine's Loveless was once described as part-Pet Sounds and part-Metal Machine Music, but I don't know how else to describe something like Going Blank Again. Ride could go from an epic track like "Leave Them All Behind" and then the power pop fun of "Twisterella" with ease. They weren't a Top of the Pops-friendly pop band but that didn't mean they were inaccessible. They had chops and hooks-two aspects that most bands have one more than the other, but rarely on the same level.

In America, Ride is one of the those bands you gotta search out. Though their records were released in the states, you gotta fork out some extra dough for their remastered catalog. Only available as an import, Ride's stuff (especially Nowhere) sounds better now, and with the augmenting of b-sides as bonus tracks (especially the great Carnival of Light-era "Let's Get Lost"), these are reissues worth getting. Unlike records that are littered with boring demos, remixes and alternate versions, these Ride bonus tracks demand repeat listens.

I had never heard of Ride until '97, right around the time I got into Catherine Wheel. On the band's e-mail discussion list, Ride, Curve, Cranes, Red House Painters and Swervedriver were frequently mentioned as contemporaries. The name was floating around my mind, but I didn't know how great they were until I heard them in '01. I had never heard them on the radio here, but apparently Ride had some "hits" in America back in the day.

Immensely popular in England with a number of singles (including the 8-minute "Leave Them All Behind"), I hear that "Twisterella" and Nowhere's "Vapour Trail" got some decent airplay on alternative rock stations here. In other words, they weren't totally ignored here; just lost in the shuffle. This was typical in in a time when anything off-the-beaten path that was also melodic could have a go in the mainstream. The post-Nevermind years were cool for this mainstream version of alternative music, but they didn't last. By the time a band like Creed started selling a lot of records, that time was over.

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