Reissued next month, I thought I'd dig out the ol' cult classic Nowhere, the debut album of Oxford based quartet Ride, to see if 25 years after the original release it's stood the test of time.
Eight songs. Forty minutes. Ride's debut album wasn't their biggest commercial success, but is almost certainly the album that has on it's shoulders the heady weight of their legacy of glacial shoegaze pioneers. It didn't, like Going Blank Again, penetrate the People That Don't Really Listen To Music niche of the market, so it's #11 placing in the UK charts, which it shot to in 1990, is all down to the way with which Ride entangled the British music press 'round their little finger with their swirling soundscapes and their pretty harmonies (and maybe pretty faces).
25 years on though, Ride's debut completely transcends that of what you'd imagine your stock indie darlings could produce. Captured in the grooves of Nowhere is music that both spearheaded the shoegazing zeitgeist from the front, and today sounds totally without age or date. The misty production and dreamy sound is something that, even with the technological advances afforded, is something that the likes of DIIV and Beach House still really, really wanna achieve.
And it's not just the general sound that makes this record great, although it's definitely all too easy to get lost in the mystical icey dreamworld that Bell and Gardener create with their guitars, and it's all too easy to be overcome with the overwhelmingly beautiful sonic swirls and soundscapes, and it's all too easy to just fall completely in love with this album on first listen. Agh.
But you've also gotta bear in mind that the band here, particularly Andy Bell, really come into their own as twee little songwriters with enormous proficiency. When I spoke to Mark Gardener he had a theory, or implied it at least, that Nowhere (and the other Ride output) is so brilliant because underneath the pedalwork there's just really, really well written songs, which I guess is why it's a treat to hear acoustic Gardener or Bell bits every now and again...
But the songs on here aren't just good, they're downright innovative and genre defining. People have a tendency to earmark My Bloody Valentine's Loveless as the greatest shoegaze album, but personally I attribute it's massive legacy to the romantic narrative that it has with it's whole taking 2 years to record type thing that you've heard over and over. But I think Ride's Nowhere trumps it from the first song; not many, by which I mean I can't really name any off the top of my head, albums have an opener like Seagull; a 6 minute powerhouse that condenses a whirling, vengeful wall-of-sound into the carcass of a sprawling indie rock dinner bringer.
And with the perfect album opener, it doesn't really lay about; unlike most the other shoegaze albums that are still loved today (*-glares eyes at Pale Saints, The Telescopes AND Loveless-*), this album is completely killer, absolutely no filler. Kaleidoscope and Vapour Trail, despite not being singles, are perfect perfect single-type pop songs, capturing their own unique moods in the process - for Kaleidoscope it's a kind of momentous youthful rebellion, and with Vapour Trail it's a forlorn feeling of the resigned teenage lover - ensuring that this is one the most emotionally evocative albums you'll hear in the general indie genre.
The centrepieces though; the sprawling, majestic echo-pop of Polar Bear and the crunchy forlorn crashing of Dreams Burn Down; are quite possibly the best picks of a great album; both of them capturing cold shimmery guitar tones that no one else could dare attempt. Complimented by Mark Gardener's best vocals, these two songs are the crowning glory for what is one of the most accomplished British debut albums ever.
Obviously the brilliance of this record doesn't quite end there; you've got the balladry of In A Different Place, the heartbreak of Paralysed, and of course, the breakneck Seagull, the album's scintillating 6 minute opener that swoops and glides through some amazing guitar tones from Bell and Gardener, some of Queralt's best bass lines and Loz Colbert's savage drumming.
Overall, this album is the kind of thing that should make a big deal of itself - it was the first great shoegaze album, and it's still a timeless sounding relic of an era that gave British indie music some of its greatest assets. Nowhere itself is being reissued this month, so if you need a reminder of just why it's one of the greatest British indie albums of all time, the time to buy it is now.
nowhere is available as a double lp reissue / cd & dvd combo. buy it here
(written by calum cashin)