Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ride-Going Blank Again

Originally Written and Posted at on 9/8/08.

Following the critical success of 1990's full-length debut release Nowhere, Ride was already riding a wave of critical acclaim as the shoegaze genre was in full-bloom with bands like Lush, Chapterhouse, and Slowdive releasing records that blended noise-pop and dream-pop. Then in November 1991, My Bloody Valentine raised the bar for the genre and pop music all together with Loveless which many claims to be the definitive album of the genre. Ride meanwhile, after releasing the Today Forever EP in March 1991 collaborated with My Bloody Valentine's engineer Alan Moulder, who had also been collaborating with another shoegaze act, Curve. In the fall of 1991, Ride and Alan Moulder collaborated on the band’s second release entitled Going Blank Again.

Produced by Alan Moulder with songs each written by their singers/guitarists Mark Gardener and Andy Bell. Going Blank Again is an album that takes Ride’s dream-like shoegaze sound of Nowhere with broader production and noisier palettes that pays tribute to the burgeoning grunge music scene in America. With the thunderous rhythm section of bassist Steve Queralt and drummer Laurence Colbert, the album pushes the band's sound to new limits as they also go for ambitious song structures and noises. Though lacks the richness and dream-like angst of Nowhere, Going Blank Again is still an excellent release from Ride.

The album opener is the eight-minute, eighteen second opus Leave Them All Behind with its wobbly bass line, mid-tempo rhythms, and warbling guitar shimmers as a blazing solo emerges. Mark Gardener leads the way in singing the song with its hazy lyrics as he's joined by Andy Bell on vocals. With its smooth, driving rhythm and blazing guitar noises, it's definitely a great opener for the entire album. The single Twisterella is a bouncy, upbeat song with thumping rhythms and washy guitar arpeggios as Mark Gardener sings with his smooth, cool vocal style as Bell joins him in the chorus. With ringing chimes and percussions, it's a wonderful pop song with ringing guitar melodies and dream-like lyrics led by Gardener. Not Fazed is a more rocking song with driving guitar riffs and a smooth, upbeat rhythm as Andy Bell leads the way with his more evocative, dream-like vocal style. Joined by Gardener on vocals, it's a more rocking track with arpeggio riffs and washy guitars.

Chrome Waves is an acoustic-led track filled with mid-tempo, thumping rhythms and dreamy, evocative synthesizers in the background. With Bell singing in a haunting vocal style and Gardener singing in the background, it's an excellent track led by Alan Moulder's crisp, wall-to-wall production. Mouse Trap is an upbeat song led by a washy guitar riff before going into a thumping, driving rhythm led by Steve Queralt's low-sounding yet bouncy bass line. With its blazing guitar washes and rollicking rhythm, Bell and Gardener sing the song's dream-like lyrics after two-minutes of playing only to play once again. It's a good song but not a great one. Time Of Her Time is another upbeat song with blazing guitars and rollicking beats as Andy Bell sings the song with his hazy lyrics and dream-like vocals. With warbling guitar solos and washy riffs, it's another song that's good but falls short a bit.

Cool Your Boots is a six-minute, mid-tempo, guitar-blazing song that features some great production work from Alan Moulder and Bell's evocative vocals. With its driving guitar and smooth, thundering beats, it's an excellent song filled with a soft, synthesizer background that does get a bit long during its instrumental coda. Making Judy Smile is a mid-tempo yet bouncy rocker led by thumping rhythms, a melodic bass line, and washy guitars led by Bell's smooth vocals. With ringing guitar melodies flourishing, it's a wonderful little pop with its flourishes showing they can create unique songs. Time Machine starts off with a one-minute intro of wobbly bass and drums until it becomes a full-sounding track with a more driving tempo, swift guitar washes, and acoustic guitar plucks. Mark Gardener sings the song through his evocative vocals with Bell joining him in this slow yet melodic song that isn't very memorable.

The album closer OX4 is a seven-minute epic filled with slow yet warbling guitar chimes as it turns into a full-on sound with noisy guitar background, arpeggio chimes, and a thumping rhythm. With Gardener singing lead with Bell in the background, the song goes into a simple, mid-tempo track with guitar washes and shimmering synthesizers layered by Alan Moulder's crisp production. The track is definitely one of the band's career highlights. In the 2001 remastered version of the album comes four additional tracks including the album's title track from the Twisterella single. The mid-tempo yet melodic, arpeggio-chime driven track is one of the band's simpler songs with the harmonic vocals of Gardener and Bell as they lead the way for this chiming, dream-like song.

The next two bonus tracks also come from the Twisterella single. First is Howard Hughes, a rich ballad with washy, dream-like acoustic and electric guitars followed by a wobbly bass line and Mark Gardener's soothing vocals. With layers of shimmering and arpeggio guitars, it's one of the band's richest B-sides. Stampede is a mid-tempo song with arpeggio and blazing guitars with rollicking beats and slow bass lines as Andy Bell sings the song with his dream-like wail as it features a shimmering chorus led by its guitar. The final bonus track from the Leave Them All Behind single is the near, eleven-minute instrumental epic Grasshopper. The track starts off as an instrumental jam with thundering beats, wobbly bass lines, and layers of guitar ranging from blazing to rich arpeggios. With guitars blazing and making noises, it's one of the band's great highlights in this jam-like instrumental piece.

Upon its release in March 1992, the album achieved critical acclaim as well as a degree of commercial success. Yet, the band was unable to break through into the U.S. while the shoegaze musical scene was going into a huge decline. A year later, plans for a third album were in delay due to tension between Mark Gardener and Andy Bell. In 1994, the band released Carnival of Light to mixed reviews as the album signified a change in sound with psychedelia that also had dashes of the current Brit-pop music scene. Two years later, the band released their final album Tarantula to poor reviews a year after the band had called it quits. Today, Ride remains one of the most celebrated bands of the shoegaze scene with Andy Bell being the most-profiled as he currently plays bass for the popular British band Oasis.

Going Blank Again is an excellent album from Ride. Though doesn't reach the heights of their debut album Nowhere. Fans of the band and of the genre will no doubt consider this one of the band’s finest despite a few moments that don't live up to expectations. Yet, it's the kind of record that shows that a band like Ride can and could overcome the sophomore slump. In the end, Going Blank Again is an album worthy to listen to from one of Britain's overlooked acts.

Ride Albums: Nowhere - Smile - (Carnival of Light) - (Tarantula) - (OX4: The Best of Ride)

(C) thevoid99 2011

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