The revival of shoegaze has had an increasing influence on alternative rock over the last decade, both in contemporary bands such as DIIV, Ringo Deathstar and Nothing who have adopted the styles and trends of the genre, and in the return of original acts, most recently Slowdive and Lush. In the last 4 years there’s even been new albums by genre heavyweights My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus and Mary Chain, if you were to take William Hill up (other high-street bookmakers are also available) on a Cocteau Twins reunion, 2017 seems like a good year.
Reforming in 2015, Ride have been revisiting previous works for live performances for the past few years. Although their back catalogue saw numerous changes in direction, ultimately verging on Brit Pop with the demising 1996 album Tarantula, it is the reverb laden shoegaze sound most prominent in their early outputs, but that seeped into all their work, that the band are held most icon for. Weather Diaries, released this month via Wichita istheir first new album in over 20 years, and where many of their peers picked up where they left off, Ride have taken the bolder leap of making something new.
With directional change not a new concept to the bands, Ride brought in the interesting choice of DJ/Producer/King of mid-2000’s indie-electro Erol Alkin for production on the Weather Diaries. His influence is clear but not overstated, with the album sounding tighter and clearer than previous work. Reverb-y hazes and walls of feedback have become details added to the songs and not the dominant body. Alkin’s influence can also be heard with the occasional addition of electronics and synth lines, most notably on ‘All I Want’ with its looped vocal samples and manipulation.
Album opener “Lannoy Point” is a great introduction, its paradoxing lyrics “A Face of reason equals treason, a treason against all reason” sit well with the effects clad guitar lines and reverbed vocals reminiscent of the band, while being driven along by the cleaner sounding rhythm section, demonstrating an insight into the upcoming sound. The first single from the album ‘Charm Offensive’ is a bombastic track, perfectly balancing radio friendly rock with more leftfield ideas and guitar lines flirting on Prog Rock. Whereas songs such as the album title track comes across as slightly formulated, with the political subtext of the lyrics somewhat contrived.
At times the album sounds detailed with intricate layers and thoughtful textures. It’s stimulating and easy to become absorbed within, the two and a half minute washing soundscape of ‘Integration Tape’ sits beautifully between tracks, and Mark Gardener and Andy Bell’s harmonies are as choral and exciting as ever. At other times it sounds like the kind of straightforward rock you would expect from an ex-member of Beady Eye however, on tracks such as ‘Cali’ with it’s quiet verse, loud chorus combination and lyrics about summer in particular. It’s not that either of these directions is superior to the other, or that the album doesn’t feel cohesive but combined with the odd electronic moment and it’s more polished recording, it occasionally sounds indecisive. It would have been easy for Ride to recreate their critically acclaimed debut Nowhere, and receive the admiration of many middle age men reliving their 20s and newer fans alike, but it is more respectable that they ventured for something different. However the Weather Diaries is unlikely to be seen as much more than a footnote in Ride’s discography.