Ukuleles, banjos and Mumford and Sons CDs are quietly being taken to charity shops. Whisper it… shoegazers are back
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In the darkest region of Muso-dom, something is stirring. Groups of people –strangers for years- are reconvening. Guitar effect boards are growing, groaning under the addition of vintage phasers, flangers, reverbs and delays. Almost forgotten but strangely familiar names are appearing on “currently on tour” lists. Ukuleles, banjos and Mumford and Sons CDs are quietly being taken to charity shops. Whisper it… shoegazers are back.
A cursory glance at a gig list or review section of any music mag or website will tell you that 2017 is the new 1991. Lush, Jesus and Mary Chain, House of Love and Slowdive are all dusting off their black Levis and pulling their guitars from under the bed. Has anyone told Chapterhouse? But no celebration of “The Scene That Celebrates Itself” (cough, splutter) would be complete without its venerable poster boys – Ride.
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To be fair to Ride, this is the third reformation for them, but this is the first album to emerge since “Tarantula” in 1996. It’s nice to see all the original members present and correct. Andy Bell was a busy boy during the hiatus, forming Hurricane No 1 and eventually ending up in a notorious Manchester indie band called Oasis. Ladies’ favourite Mark Gardener amused himself with a moderately successful solo career, but nothing got close to Ride’s huge mid 90’s peak.
So to “Weather Diaries”. A radical reinterpretation of the sound that thrilled undergraduates in the pre-britpop years or more of the same, but this time available on MP3? Good news, Ride fans – it’s closer to option two. Vintage synths and swirly guitars rule, backed up by the powerful drumming of Laurence Colbert. A few songs – the title track included – are straight outta 1992 and “Home is a Feeling” could have sat nicely on “Nowhere” or “Going Blank Again” and benefits from a warm, lush production. Layers of guitars hug you like your over affectionate grannie. So what’s not to love? Well… put it down to performance anxiety or self consciousness, but few of the tunes on “Weather Diaries” are from the top drawer. The first songs to be released from the album “Lannoy Point” and “Charm Assault” showed promise, but the album doesn’t quite deliver. Tellingly, there is version of ‘Charm Assault” from a live BBC broadcast on YouTube that simply eats the studio version. Red light fever? “Lateral Alice” has a lovely garage rock feel, right down to its fuzz bass and almost backwards guitar solo and “Integration Tape” is two and a half minutes of gorgeous guitar noises – sort of “Metal Machine Music” played by Brian Eno. “Impermanence” with its languid feel and vaguely eastern drones is a high point in an album which only rarely peaks at higher than “…alright”. To use an old musical theatre phrase – “Once more boys, but with feeling…” When “Lannoy point” came out early in June, Ride stated they were fired up with indignation over the state of the nation – especially Brexit. Sadly, none of this bile and anger is evident in this album.
Slowdive proved that you can take a format which was the butt of critics’ jokes for years and make it relevant and vital. With “Weather Diaries” Ride just fall short. It may have been that they didn’t want to alienate their fans by going all 2017 on them. Or maybe it was nerves. Either way, the best plan is to pop the celebratory prosecco back in the fridge, go out on tour and play these songs with all the edge and aggression they’re capable of and get back into the studio while they’re still full of vim and vigour. File this album under “almost, but not quite”.
“Weather Diaries” is available now via Wichita Recordings
Track Listing is as follows…
1. Lannoy Point 2. Charm Assault 3. All I Want 4. Home Is A Feeling 5. Weather Diaries 6. Rocket Silver Symphony 7. Lateral Alice 8. Cali 9. Integration Tape 10. Impermanence 11. White Sands
UK Tour Dates …
6/20 – Oxford @ Fopp 6/22 – Kingston New Slang 6/23 – Pilton, Somerset @ Glastonbury Festival 17/10 – Oxford @ New Theatre 7/11 – 02 Ritz @ Manchester International Festival 7/28 – London @ To The Rhythm at XOYO 7/17 – Suffolk @ Latitude Festival 8/17 – Brecon Beacons, Wales @ Green Man Festival 11/7 – London @ Forum Kentish Town 11/8 – Birmingham @ O2 Institute 11/9 – Bristol @ SWX 11/10 – Leeds @ Beckett Student Union 11/12 – Liverpool @ Academy 11/13 – Newcastle @ Boiler Shop 11/14 – Edinburgh @ Queens Hall