Ride should need no introduction to any fan of the original wave of shoegaze and perhaps even to those fans of the bands that were influenced by them in the 2000s. “This is not a safe place” is the Oxford quartet’s sixth full-length and second since re-forming in 2014 after an 18 year hiatus.
I had approached the previous album, “Weather diaries”, warily and with plenty of trepidation. You never know how these things will work out, especially a band like Ride, who even in their short early days had two distinct periods of musical direction. Would they revisit their early, “shoegaze” sound that has kept their name coming up over and over again as such an influential group or would they continue down the road they seemed to be travelling when the group was rended by internal strife? Happily, it was more the former than the latter. And even more happily is that it wasn’t just a rehash of days gone by but the sound of a band tentatively dipping its toes back into the wave pool and finding the water just fine, spreading its water wings to surf out on the breakers with its years of diverse experiences.
In the two years since its release, I have regretted not purchasing “Weather diaries” for my vinyl collection so I decided with only slight hesitation to not make the same mistake for “This is not a safe place” when it was announced. I went out to one of my locals on release day and picked up a copy to spin later that night. After a couple go ‘rounds, I was pleased with my decision. This new one finds Mark Gardener, Andy Bell, Loz Colbert, and Steve Queralt revelling in being back in a fully realized band. Yeah, there is more confidence and energy and a sense that they want to explore and experiment more with their sound. After five years back as a whole, this sounds like it’s the first time that Ride knows exactly who they want to be and it’s bursting out from all speakers.
I had my favourites that first night but the favourites have multiplied with each listen to the point where I find it a task to point to a weak link on the album. My three picks for you are from among those early faves. Have a listen.
“Repetition”: Andy Bell was very proud of this second tune to be unveiled in advance of the album’s release, calling it perhaps the best song he’s ever written. As he says, it’s a great one for blasting, thumping bass and chunky drumming, the guitars roar and rumble and scream. Bell on lead here, meanwhile, seemingly sings about the lot of bands whose fans want the same thing over and over again. The energy is youthful exuberance and plenty of wash and drone and yet there’s something withdrawn and knowing about it. I could see having fun on the dancefloor with this one for sure.
“Clouds of Saint Marie”: In the days leading up to the album’s release, Ride unleashed this shining tune. Another Andy Bell penned tune, this one feels like a pop throwback to eighties indie. The guitars alternate between jangle and roar and the bass and drums just chug along. It could just be the title but there’s definitely a feeling here of floating high up in the atmosphere, watching over life down on the ground from a happy place far removed, keeping company with the bright sun. Bell whispers and sighs the beauty of love, letting it wash over all of us. So good.
“Jump jet”: “Jump jet” is like an explosion. It’s like the end of all things. The machine has failed and technology is crumbling and everything is coming to a disaster movie climax, the hero racing to save his or her family from the evil villain (or whatever menace, you pick). And Ride is performing the soundtrack to this final scene. The bass is driving, the drums are punishing, the synths are washing and pooling like dry ice fog, and of course, the guitars are firing above it all. It’s a song to play loud on your ear phones or speakers in your basement and just close your eyes to lose yourself for five minutes.
Check back next Tuesday for album #3. In the meantime, here are the previous albums in this list:
10. Chromatics “Closer to grey”
9. Elva “Winter sun”
8. The Twilight Sad “It won/t be like this all the time”
7. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds “Ghosteen”
6. The Soft Calvary “The Soft Calvary”
5. Orville Peck “Pony”
You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.