30 years on from Ride’s understated classic ‘Nowhere’
On October 15th, 1990, Ride would unleash their debut album Nowhere to universal acclaim, a record which saw the Oxfordshire band release one of the definitive shoegaze projects of all time. The album is one hour and eleven minutes of pure exhilaration and is undoubtedly one of the finest musical moments to have occurred throughout the whole of the ’90s but, for some reason, the album doesn’t get the plaudits it deserves all these years later.
The record perfectly encapsulates the early ’90s and the initial days of the shoegaze movement. It was a scene that Ride asserted themselves right into the middle of with this astounding debut. Although Nowhere does sound of its time, it doesn’t feel dated or corny listening back, a testament to the sheer quality of the songs that make it up. Perhaps the only reason it feels very much of the era that it originates from is that Nowhere set the tone for the decade and, following its release, a number of band’s attempted to ‘borrow’ their sound after being taken aback by the record which, in a weird way, acts as the greatest of compliments.
Ride were only 20 when they recorded the album which, on reflection, is staggering to comprehend. Nowhere has a mature sensibility to it, one which made it stand out from the pack. Perhaps, the naivety that came with being so young is what made the band triumphantly fearless, allowing them to become the perfect signing for Creation Records. Another positive which came with them stepping into the record industry straight from art school without a great deal of real-world experience is that it gave Ride the cocksure attitude that was required to go out and make a record like Nowhere.
At the time, the only number which came close to a radio-friendly single which featured on the record was ‘Vapour Trail’, a song which clocks in at over the four-minute mark which makes it short by Ride’s standards. However, the band decided to ditch singles and only release EPs which Creation was happy to go along with but, in truth, this would prevent the band from reaching their full commercial potential—but that didn’t cause much concern. Releasing songs for the radio was never something that the four-piece cared about and, instead, they opted to make albums which deserved to be listened to as an experience from start to finish. While this may have cost the band in the short term, the long term benefits have given Ride a classy reputation for doing things the ‘right’ way.
In 2007, Creation Records boss Alan McGee wrote a piece in The Guardian about his anger at the fact that, at the point of writing, Ride had seemingly been written out of music history, even though their impact of Nowhere is immeasurable and the amount of copycat acts the record would spawn. “It epitomised the feeling that something was happening in independent music beyond twee C86 and third form baggy,” McGee wrote.
He then went on to say how when they went to release their sophomore record they already “up against it” as they were accused of not having anything to say by the press and more importantly as McGee noted, “their influence had spread – now they were competing with a hundred shambolic versions of themselves,” he added.
Frontman Mark Gardener reflected on the record in 2011 with Under The Radar to discuss the legacy of Nowhere when it was celebrating its 21st birthday and that whole time is one that the singer still reflects on fondly. “Being involved with Creation and Sire, and the other bands that were around at the time,” Gardener recalled to the publication. “I feel very quite proud now to be in the middle of it and, to look back on it, I have to say that I have no regrets about any of it, and I’d sort of do it all again if I had that time again. There’s not a lot I would change about it. At the time, you’re always thinking, maybe you can change this, change that, but actually I kind of understand now that there’s a great sort of freshness, rawness, and sort of naiveté about it,” he added with no bitterness attached to the band never quite reaching the dizzy heights of some of their contemporaries.
Thankfully, the story of Ride has a happy ending when it was revealed in November 2014 that the band were set to reunite for a series of tour dates in Europe and North America to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their debut record. It wouldn’t just be a one-off tour, however, and they had fallen back in love with the group, a love affair which resulted in Ride releasing their first LP in over 20 years and reasserting their dominance in the underbelly of alternative music, a position which was firmly established some 30 years prior.