Noise Annoys: Shoegaze heroes RIDE return with storming new LP Weather Diaries
It's been 21 years since shoegaze heroes RIDE released an album, but now the Oxford band are back with Weather Diaries. Noise Annoys licks its finger
DO CALL it a comeback – they've been away for years. OK, so they might have reformed for live shows back in 2015, but Weather Diaries is the first new collection of songs from Oxford shoegaze rocker's RIDE in over two decades.
While 3/4 of the band continued to make music in various guises after their acrimonious split in 1996 (enigmatic bassist Steve Queralt reserves his musical services for RIDE only, it seems), the last time Mark Gardener (guitar/vocals), Andy Bell (guitar/vocals), Loz Colbert (drums) and Steve made new music together was when they performed a hastily conceived instrumental number for a Channel 4 music documentary in 2001.
Despite the significance of the occasion for fans, barely 30 seconds of the sprawling half-hour jam – later titled Coming Up For Air and granted a very limited release for hardcore followers on the band's Vapour Trail email list fan group – was actually used in the show.
This and the fact that the documentary was about the influence of Sonic Youth rather than Creation Records' first ever Top 10-making act themselves can be taken as pretty accurate barometrics of the wider interest in RIDE at the dawn of the 21st century.
What a difference a decade and a half makes: following a resurgence of interest in all things shoegaze, in 2015 RIDE became the last of its 'big four' to reform after My Bloody Valentine (2007), Swervedriver (2008) and Slowdive (2014).
Indeed, last week they became the last to release a new album in the wake of excellent efforts by their latter two peers and a pretty OK-ish 'surprise' LP from the Valentines (Sorry, Kevin, but well played with the whole guerilla release thing).
Thus, Weather Diaries arrived on Friday last with a whole heap of expectation on its shoulders, yet thankfully it manages to stand tall beside the Oxford quartet's most celebrated records, 1990's debut Nowhere and its 1992 follow-up Going Blank Again.
In fact, the buzz amongst the RIDE faithful is that the Erol Alkan-produced Weather Diaries is the forward-facing yet legacy respecting album they wanted in 1994, rather than Carnival of Light's feast of retro psychedelia – harsh, but quite possibly fair enough.
Time off has afforded the band much needed perspective on their strengths as well as the chance to evolve as musicians and songwriters: as such Weather Diaries is flecked with both familiar sounds – ringing arpeggiated guitars augmented with swathes of effects, Bell and Gardener's trademark vocal cooing, Queralt's dub-informed post punky bass and Colbert's wild yet precise percussion – and less traditionally RIDE-y elements like synths, loops and other electronic augmentations.
Opener Lannoy Point (one of just two Mark Gardener-credited songs on the record along with its oddball closing ballad, White Sands) offers a perfect introduction to this synthesis of old and new: six minutes of motorik groove powered by a pulsating electro-burble offset by crystaline guitar work and gloriously melodic vocalisation.
Apparently inspired by Britain's current political turmoil, it's surely one of the few good thing to come out of the Brexit debacle, while Andy Bell's disgust with the current Tory regime also gets the band fired up for some good old-fashioned brutish art rock guitar abuse on Charm Assault, the choppy chorus of which recalls the straight-up garage rocking of the band's lost gem Black Nite Crash.
Who said RIDE weren't political, eh?
Indeed, Teresa May's mooted plans to make British firms list their foreign workers informs the Bell/Gardener co-write All I Want, a swooping nu-gaze anthem packed with busy cut'n'paste drum loops, stuttering vocal samples and a huge chorus.
Perhaps unexpectedly, the most traditional 'shoegaze' moment on Weather Diaries also ends up being one of its least essential moments: the dreamy sonic melt of Home Is A Feeling is effectively RIDE doing Slowdive doing My Bloody Valentine's Slow (try to keep up at the back, there).
Things pick up again with the title track, an epic dreampop dirge with a nice, melancholic vibe and a woozy, off-kilter quality that gives it a slo-mo feel – and, as an added bonus, the chiming guitar sound cutting through the jet-engine noise of its stormy climax calls to mind the early RIDE classic Dreams Burn Down.
Side C (for those listening on limited edition vinyl) is one of the strongest sections of Weather Diaries, featuring a superb three song run from the majestic krautrocking Rocket Silver Symphony through Lateral Alice's crunchy, hand-clapping road movie boogie to the swoonsome jangle pop churn of Cali.
Thereafter, the spacey intrumentalism of Integration Tape leads into penultimate number, Impermanence, a slow-building psychedelic ballad showcasing Gardener's vocal against a backdrop of chiming guitar swell which eventually washes up on the shore of funereal album finale White Sands.
As mentioned, this one stands out from the rest of the record: it's a shape-shifting slab of sonic introspection which combines dissonant piano, spacey washes of electric guitar, plucked acoustics and crashing percussion to haunting effect.
After that, you'll simply want to go back and play it all again, because Weather Diaries is a record that's been well worth waiting 21 years for – or 25, for those fans who lost interest post-Going Blank Again.
The only question now is which old favourites will RIDE be dropping from the set to slot in some of these newies but goodies?
Pray for Irish dates so that we have the opportunity to find out.
Weather Diaries is out now on Wichita.