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Ride: Many Happy Returns To 'Going Blank Again'

Thursday, 09 March 2017 Written by Graeme Marsh

Here’s a claim to get us started: Creation Records boasted perhaps the coolest roster of acts ever assembled in one place. The label, founded in the early ‘80s by Alan McGee, put out some of the most revered works in British rock history and, along the way, assembled a catalogue that remains astonishing. Forget ‘astonishing for an indie label’. Just astonishing.

The House of Love, Sugar (and Bob Mould), Teenage Fanclub, Swervedriver and Slowdive released some of the best albums of the last 30 years on the label, but a few Creation acts are held in even higher esteem. The Jesus and Mary Chain set down their first marker with Upside Down in 1984, My Bloody Valentine released the landmark shoegaze LP ‘Loveless’ in 1991 and in the same year, Andrew Weatherall helped transform the work of Primal Scream on the groundbreaking ‘Screamadelica’.

It was then up to Oasis to take the label’s status to a whole new commercial level with the release of one of the best debuts of all time, ‘Definitely Maybe’, in 1994 and its follow-up ‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?’ a year later.

Oxford’s Ride were another of the bands under McGee’s wing and, for some, were the best of the lot. Still, even taking into account the ecstatic response to their recent reformation and promises of new music, they remain comparatively unsung next to many of their peers.

Formed in 1988, the band revolved around the nucleus of schoolfriends Mark Gardener and Andy Bell, with the line up completed by drummer Laurence (Loz) Colbert and bassist Steve Queralt. After honing their skills, a demo found its way to Warner Brothers, who were suitably impressed. But the band kept them at arm’s length.

“We already were not going to be signed to a major label at that time because we’d seen bands that we liked just be wrecked by major label policy,” Gardener explained to Buzzbands in a 2011 interview. “So we already knew about labels because Steve was feeding the records straight to us like Creation, 4AD, Mute and what the Smiths did with Rough Trade, so we respected the fact that those bands created their own environment.

"It didn’t seem to be anyone interfering with the creative process, and we were very, very single-minded and strong. It was good that we felt like that because that’s why in the end Ride sounded fresh and different in a way. We knew we weren’t going to sign to Warners but we were quite chuffed to get that sort of attention, you know, straightaway.”

It’s here that McGee entered the fray, seeing the band live and becoming friends with them after a tip off from the Mary Chain’s Jim Reid and his soon-to-be-Creation-press-officer girlfriend Laurence Verfaillie, who had heard an early track on the radio. He later convinced them to release their first EP through the label. “Alan believed in the people that he signed very much and he trusted them,” Gardener continued. The eponymous EP was released in 1990 and contained future live staples Chelsea Girl and Drive Blind.

Two more short-form releases would hit shelves before the arrival of Ride’s debut long player, ‘Nowhere’. Often overlooked in favour of similar, wall-of-noise Creation releases like ‘Loveless’, ‘Nowhere’ had something a little different beneath the surface: the vocal harmonies of Gardener and Bell. The album was a revelation, another success for McGee’s label and a collection that enjoys much retrospective acknowledgement as one of the best of the shoegaze era.

Following the success of ‘Nowhere’ – the album just failed to make the UK top 10 – the band went back to the studio. Bell, in particular, had become concerned that the noise/melody spine of the band’s sound was in danger of ageing poorly over time. “It felt like the whole heavy effect sound of ‘Nowhere’ was like the psychedelic sound of 1967, a fad that you need to shake off before everyone else,” he told The Line of Best Fit in 2015.

He has since admitted that this was a mistake, ironically claiming that “the more we tried to sidestep sounding dated by going for a more classic sound, the more dated those records sound now”. But this initial belief drove him to incorporate a much cleaner guitar sound, a change that would define Ride’s sophomore effort: the more pop-oriented ‘Going Blank Again’.

Filled with gorgeous melodies and harmonious vocals, the 10 track album contradicted what they had been expected to produce following the fuzzy squalor of ‘Nowhere’. But it proved to be refreshingly brilliant and achieved something that My Bloody Valentine, in particular, failed to do: follow up a seminal album with one that could be considered its better. Like the Jesus and Mary Chain before them, Ride peeled back some layers of fuzz to further reveal a melodious core. Tellingly, both bands released albums in March of 1992 that many fans adore over the more critically revered ‘Nowhere’ and ‘Psychocandy’. The Jesus and Mary Chain offering in question here is the grossly underrated ‘Honey’s Dead’.

The first half of ‘Going Blank Again’ is capable of blowing listeners away. From the bouncy, poppy gem Twisterella to the spine-tingling vocal harmonies of Not Fazed and the acoustic-led synth wash of Chrome Waves, it has it all. At the forefront, though, is the eight-minute epic opener Leave Them All Behind, a blistering juggernaut of a track that Gardener convinced McGee to put out as the lead single.

It proved to be a wise move, with the single becoming the first Creation effort to reach the top 10 in the UK chart. Beginning in a similar fashion to the Who’s masterpiece Won’t Get Fooled Again, its bubbly, arpeggiated Hammond organ sequence leads to a humdinger of a bassline from Queralt before the band bridge the gap from ‘Nowhere’ with a wall of blistering sound and an ingenious guitar hook from Bell.  

The second half of the album stood little chance of matching what had gone before, but gave it one hell of a shot. More compelling vocal dynamics and delicious guitars follow on Time After Time and the Withnail and I-quoting Cool Your Boots, while the sub-three minute Making Judy Smile provides a breather from the constant onslaught of majestic ingredients hitting the senses at the same time. It is only a short respite, mind, before heavenly keyboards, acoustic guitar and heavy fuzz form the backbone of the excellent Time Machine. OX4 closes a near perfect album, and soars in doing so.

“‘Going Blank Again’ was our pop record,” Gardener told the Quietus in 2012. But they had intended it to be much bigger – a double album that was eventually pulled after input from their US label, Sire/Warner. “Though the suggestion came from the States, we all signed off on it,” Bell added. “The thinking was, ‘Well, instead of a double album let’s make it a killer single album’.” It’s fair to say it worked.

Two further albums followed - ‘Carnival of Light’ and ‘Tarantula’ - but Ride disbanded in 1996. They remained friends thereafter and fans’ prayers were finally answered in 2014 when the quartet announced an unlikely reunion, resulting in festival slots, including Coachella, among other dates. This year will, against all odds, see the fifth Ride album released.

It all began, though, with the now deceased Creation and the label’s legacy, something that can never be taken away, remains hugely impressive. With ‘Loveless’, ‘Screamadelica’, ‘Definitely Maybe’ and Ride’s own ‘Nowhere’ all contenders for the jewel in the crown, let us not forget this psychedelic, Byrdsian classic that many claim is their favourite of all. Many Happy Returns to ‘Going Blank Again’.

Ride Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue March 21 2017 - BELFAST Limelight
Wed March 22 2017 - DUBLIN Olympia

Click here to compare & buy Ride Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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