Friday, June 08, 2007

Review: Ride - Nowhere

Label: Sire

Released: October 15, 1990

Ride's Nowhere is an album you can learn a lot about from the cover. Like the wave depicted, it may seem like a small ripple, but there is an underlying force behind it that can't be measured on the surface. This is an album of contrasts between walls of jangley guitar, droning vocals and animated, but sometimes subdued rhythms. Taken seperately, no part seems particularly special, yet they form a cohesive whole that is perhaps the shoegazers' finest hour.

Nowhere jumps right in with "Seagull," as fine an example of what the album has in store as any track on there. All the elements are there: a wall of noisey, phased jangle, flat, yet evocative vocals and vibrant rhythms. The song's hook is actually in the bassline which is catchy, but understated. The song has an increasing chaos that nearly takes it over as it draws to a close. "Kaleidoscope" scales back the noise without abandoning Ride's basic musical direction, taking a distinct British Invasion flavor. The intro to "In a Different Place" is very close to ripping off the Bealtes' "Baby, You're a Rich Man," but the song doesn't continue in that vein as almost all of the layered noise is stipped away but for the chorus. Unlike the first two, this track is more Britpop ballad than manic dance rock. The big sweeping guitar sound returns on "Polar Bear" which finds a happy medium among the tracks preceding it. As the drums kick in for "Dreams Burn Down," there is the expectation of something more along the lines of "Seagull," but this is another low-key piece. There is , however, a fair amount of downplayed guitar noise that comes and goes throughout to make this better than the average British pop ballad. "Decay" starts out with a decidedly different approach, having a smaller staccato sound rather than big, ringing chords, but slowly gives way to the album's established direction. "Paralysed" is a standard rock ballad on the surface with ambient keyboards filling out the background. The guitar solo ties it into the rest of the album as it teeters on the edge between structure and cacaphony. The album returns to jangley guitar riding on interesting upbeat rhythms on "Vapour Trail," a song that is easy to imagine as a single. "Taste" is difficult to separate from it's 60's pop influences as it could just as easily be the Byrds or the Hollies. The controled chaos returns on "Here and Now," which even manages to fit a bit of harmonica into its layers. The album closes with the title track, a trippy affair with an electronic drone around which they contruct psychedelic soundscapes. As the sounds fades into water, it is clearly a worthy conclusion to the body of the album that was largely descibed in the album's first track.

Nowhere is an album defined more by its noise than its hooks. What makes it so exceptional is Ride's ability to use that noise to create cohesion rather than dischord. The shoegazers produced a fair amoun t of really great rock n roll and Nowhere may just be the most perfect example.

Rating: 9/10

Check out the review of the cover over at Whole Lotta Album Covers.

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