Not even a quarter century ago, shoegaze was being written off as a lifeless genre being killed off by grunge and the impending Cool Britannia movement. One Melody Maker writer even proclaimed that he'd "rather drown choking in a bath full of porridge than ever listen to it again." And yet, 25 years later, almost all of the scene that celebrated itself's main bands have returned to overdue glory.
Following the lead of My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver, Lush and Slowdive, Oxford's Ride, once considered shoegaze's poster boys for their heartthrob looks and chart-friendly tunes, have finally put forth their first album in 21 years. However, unlike those aforementioned acts, Ride seem more interested in using their second life to become a new band.
Their fifth full-length, Weather Diaries, shares little to no DNA with their last one, 1996's underwhelming Tarantula. But Andy Bell, Loz Colbert, Mark Gardener and Steve Queralt haven't completely forgotten their past, either: "Home Is a Feeling," for example, has the anaesthetized tones of 1990's Nowhere, and the boisterous blast of "Cali" feels like a sibling to Going Blank Again's "Twisterella."
With a 21st century-minded producer like Erol Alkan behind the boards, Ride have one foot planted on their pedals, the other planted firmly in the future. Opening tracks "Lannoy Point" and "Charm Assault" could easily be confused for most bands on the Captured Tracks roster, thanks to their Krautrock-ish rhythms and crystalline jangle. The fizzy "All I Want" feels most affected by Alkan's influence; with the chopped up vocal refrain and spiralling drums, it's their boldest, most contemporary statement on the album, but still executed without surrendering their identity.
In keeping with their tradition, Weather Diaries is yet another Ride album unique from the rest. What's most remarkable about this one though is that it's as inventive and dynamic as anything else they've done (even if the inclusion of "White Sands" after "Impermanence" seems a bit superfluous). If any shoegazers are primed and ready to make the most of this second chance, it's Ride. (Wichita)