One of the touchstones of the short-lived-but-fondly-remembered shoegaze movement, Ride's debut album, Nowhere, has been given the deluxe 20th anniversary treatment for re-release with a bonus live disc on Rhino Handmade. Along with My Bloody Valentine's classic, Loveless, Ride's remarkable bow towers over the rest of shoegaze, including both bands' other releases.
For the uninformed, or merely too-young-to-know crowd, "shoegaze" or "shoegazing" was a subgenre of alternative music marked by noisy, processed guitar sounds and vocals that blended into or were buried in the musical maelstrom. Performing live, the musicians generally stood still and looked down -- either in an affected detachment from the audience or to concentrate on their foot-controlled guitar effects pedals, or both -- thus, the name. With antecedents tracing back to The Jesus and Mary Chain and the Cocteau Twins, shoegaze gained notoriety in the late '80s and early '90s, primarily in the UK, before it was swept under by the tidal wave of grunge.
At the time of Nowhere's original release in late 1990, Ride appeared to be poised for success on both sides of the Atlantic. Two preceding EPs by the young band, whose members were barely into their twenties, had been hailed by the UK music press and in-roads into America were provided by college radio and MTV's alternative music showcase program, 120 Minutes. Alas, it was not to be and the opening line of Nowhere's gorgeous single "Vapour Trail" -- "First you look so strong, then you fade away" -- would become a fitting epitaph for Ride's career and the shoegaze movement, in general.
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That fact in no way diminishes the power of Nowhere and it is an album certainly deserving of this special edition to mark its 20th anniversary. Along with the aforementioned "Vapour Trail," it's packed with strong songs and the glorious sound of sheets of distorted guitars, loping basslines, stirring vocal harmonies and Keith Moon-esque drumming. Indeed, Ride's stickhandler Laurence "Loz" Colbert may come closer to The Who's legendary drummer in terms of driving songs with simultaneous precision and wild abandon than anyone else in the rock annals.
To the eight songs released on the original UK album, this remastered edition adds the three Fall EP tracks that were included on the original US disc as well as the entire subsequent Today Forever EP -- whose four songs rival anything on Nowhere and point to the more melodic and power pop-flavored vein the band continued on their next album, Going Blank Again. On that disc, Ride acquitted themselves in the new musical direction, but the young band's lyrical deficiencies were laid painfully bare ("Twisterella," anyone?). None of that was a concern on Nowhere, with its vocals mostly buried in the mix and the focus squarely on the dense guitar squalls.
The second disc of the deluxe edition, Live at The Roxy 1991, shows Ride's sonic force was not a mere studio creation via a strong 12-song concert recorded in Los Angeles. Drawing material primarily from Nowhere and its preceding EPs, the band burns through their songs, often at breakneck pace, driven by Colbert's powerful drumming. Having seen the band in concert during this period, I can testify to their strength as a live act and it's a pleasure to hear it documented so well on this previously unreleased set.
As per usual from Rhino, the reissue label nonpareil, this 20th anniversary edition is packaged beautifully. It comes in a hardback book-style cover and includes a 40-page booklet with period photos and a nice essay with remembrances from songwriting principles Mark Gardener and Andy Bell (also of late-period Oasis). Nowhere: 20th Anniversary Edition is available now.