Oxford’s Ride are one of the most influential alternative acts Britain has to offer. Formed in 1988 by college friends Mark Gardener, Andy Bell, Steve Queralt and Loz Colbert, they’d quickly find a formula that fused the jangly indie of The Smiths with the noise of Spacemen 3 and early The Jesus and Mary Chain.
Whilst the band were studying at college in the Oxfordshire town of Banbury, they produced a demo tape recorded in Queralt’s bedroom and hallway of his parent’s house. The future classics ‘Chelsea Girl’ and ‘Drive Blind’ were on it. At the time, Queralt was working as a buyer of records in a local vinyl shop, and he and the shop’s boss started a live music night in Oxford called ‘Local Support’, and it was here where Ride would get their first break.
A band cancelled one night, and Ride got their first genuine show. At the time, the demo had been changing hands quickly, and somehow it fell into the hands of radio DJ Gary Crowley, who played it to Jim Reid of The Jesus and Mary Chain. Word spread, and soon head honcho of Creation Records, Alan McGee, was knocking at Ride’s door. After a 1989 support slot for The Soup Dragons, McGee signed them to the Creation roster.
Between January and September 1990, the band released a trio of stellar EP’s Ride, Play and Fall, and in July, they were compiled into the mini-album, Smile. That October, they released their debut album, Nowhere, to universal acclaim and were now one of the UK’s hottest bands.
Due to being on Creation and the somewhat ethereal sound they had at points, they were often lumped in with ‘The Scene That Celebrates Itself’, AKA shoegaze. This was a tag the band weren’t phased by (pardon the pun) , and in 2003, guitarist Andy Bell said: “My first reaction was like, this is another boring tag. These days… that’s pretty much still my reaction”.
Of their influences, frontman Mark Gardener explained: “We liked the noisy bands of the time. When we were at art college we went to see My Bloody Valentine, House of Love, Stone Roses and Sonic Youth. I think these all had a lot of influence on us in the early days as they were great gigs”
The early ’90s were Ride’s. After the ice-cool of Nowhere, they released the EP Today Forever in 1991, which featured fan favourites such as ‘Unfamiliar’ and ‘Sennen’, and in March 1992, they released their iconic sophomore effort, Going Blank Again, which confirmed them as one of the definitive outfits of the era. Featuring gargantuan walls of sound such as ‘Leave Them All Behind’, ‘Mousetrap’ and the luscious melodies of ‘Twisterella’ and ‘OX4’, the band augmented the somewhat gothic edge of Nowhere and created an album that was hazy and but in a surreal, melancholic kind of way.
The band then followed up Going Blank Again with 1994’s Carnival of Light, and it saw the band have a change in sound, moving in the direction of the burgeoning Britpop scene. This saw them get stylistically indulgent, and, by the end of the touring run for it, they were labelling the record “Carnival of Shite”.The band broke up while recording their fourth album, Tarantula, in 1996 and would not make another album until 21 years later.
They released their fifth album in 2017, the Erol Alkan produced Weather Diaries, and by all accounts, it was a return to form. It was old Ride but elevated by new production and the fact that each member had now matured considerably in both the musical and personal sense. Ride followed it up with This Is Not a Safe Place in August 2019, and through collaborating with Alkan again, it built on the progression of its predecessor.
Given that British alternative music owes a lot to Ride, we’ve decided to make the huge decision of listing what we feel are their six definitive songs. This is just our opinion, though and should be used for healthy debate. A word of warning, we’ve left out ‘Vapour Trail’.
Ride’s six definitive songs:
‘Like A Daydream’ – Play EP (1990)
Taken from 1990’s Play EP, this Andy Bell penned number was one of the earliest reflections of what Ride were all about. The lovely juxtaposition of the visceral main refrain and the light, jangly verses is at its centre.
Featuring Gardener’s introspective lyrics and some of the band’s busiest musicianship, it builds up to a mammoth crescendo, where drummer Loz Colbert shows just how underrated he is. He covers every inch of the kit, uses fills with ease as if they were licks on a guitar.
‘Leave Them All Behind’ – Going Blank Again (1992)
A mammoth tune. No list of definitive Ride songs would be complete without 1992’s ‘Leave Them All Behind’. Starting with that ‘Baba O’Riley’-esque arpeggio, after two seconds, you know exactly what’s coming. Meaty riffs, Queralt’s grooving bassline, and Colbert’s ice-cool drumming, this is perhaps the definitive Ride song.
Psychedelic to the core, it’s a stoner classic that needs to be turned up loud. The noisy crescendo is incredible and paved the way for every shoegaze and noise acts that followed.
‘Dreams Burn Down’ – Nowhere (1990)
‘Dreams Burn Down’ is the other song that makes a strong claim for being Ride’s greatest. It laid the foundation for ‘Leave Them All Behind’, and one would argue that the intro is equally as iconic. You just cannot beat Colbert’s drumming on this 1990 classic.
Colbert drives the song, and the way he dovetails with the shining guitars towards the climax is a pure sonic pleasure. Hauntingly beautiful, ‘Dreams Burn Down‘ is not only one of the most iconic Ride songs of all time but also one of the most important shoegaze tunes.
‘OX4’ – Going Blank Again (1992)
A fan favourite, with and without the long intro, ‘OX4’ is still a classic. One of the band’s mellower songs, the track slowly builds up to a melodic climax. It’s funky and plinky and contains flecks of Ride’s Oxford peers, Supergrass. Gardener and Bell sing, “Never been so far away, don’t think I want to stay in this room anymore”, and in terms of early adulthood confusion, they hit the nail right on the head.
The closer of Going Blank Again, there’s swooning strings, accordion-like guitars and layered textures that make ‘OX4’ one of the highlights of the record and the band’s back catalogue. The sliding guitar solo at the end is also one of the most emotive Bell ever penned.
‘Taste’ – Fall EP (1990)
Taken from 1990’s Fall EP, this early highlight of Ride’s career is one of their most enduring. It features Gardener’s haunting, reverb-laden vocals, and fast, dynamically shifting instrumentation. Queralt really shines on ‘Taste’. He drives the song along, delivering a busy bassline that gives the track its punchy edge.
Noisy, ethereal and beautiful, there’s no surprise that ‘Taste’ has been a fan favourite since release.
‘Mousetrap’ – Going Blank Again (1992)
Track five on Going Blank Again, ‘Mousetrap’ is an underrated moment in Ride’s back catalogue. It features every classic hallmark of Ride and is elevated by the densely layered production.
There’s noisy guitars, melodic vocals, Queralt’s heavy bassline, Colbert’s dextrous rhythms, and they all combine for what is one of the most unrelenting tracks they ever produced. Like the rush you get when on a fast fairground Ride, ‘Moustrap’ is so good. It constantly makes you think you’re going to get a chance for air before pulling you back under; pure genius.