Desert Island Disc #6 – Nowhere by Ride

Ride - Nowhere

It’s fair to say most of my favourite records seem to come from one of two eras, the late 60’s or early 90’s. People now talk about the shoegaze scene from the early 90’s in the same way they discuss psychedelia of the 60s.

Saturday’s Independent added fuel to that fire with an article by Paul Lester where he talks the ‘shoegaze revival’ and the hugely successful current Slowdive tour. Slowdive were famous in the early 90s for supporting Ride, a subject I talked about previously in my post about their Souvlaki album back in January.

The latest in my desert island discs is an album I promised to write about back then, Ride’s ‘Nowhere’ made the band one of the biggest names of the early 90s alternative scene and the leaders of the so-called ‘shoegazer’ scene. A new film called ‘The Beautiful Noise’ is released soon that documents that era and the bands who were influenced from by it. In truth the era never went away, Mogwai and Sigur Ros carried on with this sound but the press just stopped talking about it as ‘shoegaze’ when grunge and Britpop happened.

Ride

Paul Lester compares Ride to “the One Direction of dream-pop.” In many ways he hit the nail on the head, here were four young lads who at their age should of been at university, instead they were gracing the Top 10 with loud guitars and understated vocals, Radio 1 virtually ignored them as they didn’t play any of the showbiz games like so many of their predecessors by appearing on crap Saturday morning children’s TV and over producing their music to create hits. It seemed the more Ride avoided conventional methods of becoming successful the more records they sold.

Ride could have been in the right place at completely the wrong time, after the success of the House of Love and My Bloody Valentine in 1988 Creation had gone quiet. During 1989 The House of Love left for Fontana and The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays had both become fully fledged chart acts along with dance acts such as 808 State and A Guy Called Gerald. To those on the outside Creation’s days could well have been over.

Therefore it was an unexpected shock that Creation launched a band who clearly took the winning formula of the label in 1988 and sent it into the national charts during the height of ‘Madchester’. Ride gave Creation their first ever top 75 single in January 1990 with their debut EP and just 3 months later they went into the top 40 with the follow-up ‘Play’ EP. It wasn’t to be Creation’s first top 40 hit as a matter of weeks before ‘Loaded’ by Primal Scream reached the top 20 and even featured Mark Gardener with them on Top of The Pops pretending to play keyboards.

As someone who loved Creation, this all seemed so exciting, that feeling of your music winning even though I never expected any music I liked to enter the charts in those days.

But let’s not ignore the music, all these facts do is distract you from what a great album ‘Nowhere’ is. From the opening crash of cymbals with the screech of guitar feedback closely followed by The Beatles-esque bassline you know this is an album that is going to be a rollercoaster ride where chaos collides with melody, NME described them as “The House of Love with chainsaws.” Obviously the idea of feedback was done before by the Jesus and Mary Chain on ‘Psychocandy’, however the walls of feedback weren’t so controlled by the Reid brothers and everything on ‘Nowhere’ sounds like it all so perfectly fell into place.

Despite the screeching guitars, one of the real qualities of ‘Nowhere’ is the range of tunes within its eight songs. There’s the adrenalin rush of ‘Seagull’, the beauty of ‘In A Different Place’, the heartbreak of ‘Dreams Burn Down’, the pop thrill of ‘Vapour Trail’ and the psychedelic swirl of ‘Polar Bear’. Few albums have such a variety of songs whilst still making the album sound consistent and a whole. If you wanted more than the standard eight tracks included on the vinyl, the reissue takes it to 15 including tracks from the ‘Fall’ and ‘Today Forever’ EPs.

Throughout their career, Ride were always compared to The Byrds. As Mark Gardener admits in the video below they weren’t an influence at this stage. The band admitted in reflection many years later that The House of Love, My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth were their inspiration for the album, all the other influences came later.

Ride made it all seem so easy that in every town there was a band that tried to sound like them, for the next 18 months there was a new band in NME every week who apparently sounded just like Ride, they didn’t, but they (and I) wished they did.

During the year that followed the release of ‘Nowhere’ the band got to play to bigger and bigger audiences, initially selling out two nights at the Town & Country Club in London followed by an appearance at Wembley Arena supporting The Cure (see video below), they then were main support for The Pixies at their open air Crystal Palace Bowl gig followed by a headline slot at the now legendary Slough Festival. I went to all them gigs, they were fantastic live.

‘Nowhere’ could have had a string of hit singles released from it had the rules on ‘indie’ not been so strict at the time, this all changed many years later when indie went corporate with Britpop and four hit singles from an album became the norm.

For me it was also an album that defined an era and on that note we’ll leave you with Jeff Buckley performing ‘In A Different Place’.

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