Ride - Weather Diaries

by Bill Golembeski Rating:10 Release Date:2017-06-16

Sorry, but I just had to say the words, “It was twenty years ago today…"

Yes! And those shoegazers Ride are back after twenty years! Now, rock ‘n’ years are sort of like dog time. You know. One human year is equivalent to seven in the life of a canine friend. Except: in rock music time, each year is multiplied by the number of wrinkles in Keith Richards’ face and then divided by the exact number of words those lovable moptops, the Fab Four Beatles, managed to rhyme in their hit single “Love Me Do.” That might gauge the chasm between experience and innocence. So let’s see… well, the dearth of my mathematical skills is well chronicled in my album review of Valerian Swing’s album Nights. So just reference that review, don’t ask about the accuracy of my checkbook, and take Mark Twain at his word and just say it’s a “High Figure.”*

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we last heard from our guys Ride as they delivered their swansong of an album, Tarantula, which was pretty much devoid of their trademark shoegazing signature of guitar distortion, obscured and choir-like vocals, and a general blur (no pun intended) of deep ethereal sound. Instead, they confronted the listener with a pistol barrel cartoon cover and the direct guitar attack of “Black Nite Crash.” And they proceeded to tote that handgun through the remaining tracks. Then the guys went their separate ways. So there!

And, just so you know, fans of Ride from all those years ago will love this album.

The very first song, “Lannoy Point,” is everything you would expect in this moment rebirth. You know, like Lazarus rising from the grave, the prodigal’s return, or (and much more important to me), John Fogerty (of CCR fame) and his triumphant proclamation: “Put me in coach, I’m ready to play today!” Yeah, the boys from Ride, still the original foursome, are back and ready to play! The song is urgent, upbeat, and has an incredible bass line. Heck, I’d be happy, too. Of course, all the good shoegaze guitar stuff is back from the underworld as well, with, perhaps, a much better definition of each instrument as it is blended into the general blur (again, no pun intended). The clarity is amazing. It’s like getting a quick glimpse at the sea cucumbers, starfish, moon jellies, and tube sponges swept up in the big surf at the moment before impact. Age, perhaps, adds depth to wisdom. And let’s face it: Ride are a great band in the proud tradition of Wishbone Ash, Stray, or Thin Lizzy, and the songs, while being melodic and memorable, ultimately serve as a framework for the inevitable guitar stampede. Then, of course, the band  always quells the overdrive for a moment, and we wait in the eye of the hurricane, until the next sonic melee overcomes this welcoming shore.

It’s like watching a great magician: we know what he will do; we may even know how he will do it; yet he makes that rabbit reappear, and we are still amazed.

This is exciting music. “Charm Assault” steps a bit out of the haze with a nice melody and intricate guitar work. Shoegazing aside, this is a good rock song with quite a bit of tension and a strong chorus. “All I Want” starts with electronically altered voices, and then kicks into high gear with a psych vibe that wouldn’t be out of place on The Pretty Things’ classic S.F. Sorrow. Perhaps I just missed it with those early records, but this album is laced with references to 60’s underground culture. “Home Is a Feeling” slows the pace in a deeply soft and celestial light descending down from the heavens sort of way. It’s a different song, but there is a kinship with Dave Gilmour’s “Comfortably Numb” which was the oasis (again, no pun intended but it’s really nice that swervedriver and chapterhouse aren’t common words in the usage of the English language) smack dab in the midst of Roger Waters’ great rant about walls, religion, the military, mothers, fathers, teachers, fans, drugs, the other members of Pink Floyd, love, sex, money, someone named Vera, judges, lawyers, stenographers, the dog he never had that is symbolically missing from any song on the album, rock ‘n’ roll in general, life in general, and just about everything else.

But I digress. So let’s get back to the farm.

The same is true for the title cut “Weather Diaries.” This is slow paced beauty and wonder with a fantastic guitar solo. Sometimes rock music feels like a deeply perfect mattress of pretty great dreams. The song conjures the very best of John Lennon’s hazy satirical musings.

 “Rocket Silver Symphony” is all over the place with a bit of electronics that pulse into a catchy vocal bit which, in turn, erupts into the big symphony of sound that is, quite frankly, a million miles away from anything on their first album Nowhere. This is the stuff of which real albums are made. I’m an old guy, and I know an album cut when I hear one. Then “Lateral Alice” and “Cali” just punch their way into importance. I hear a bit of sincere Ray Davies and that’s always nice. Ray and his brother Dave were willing to punch their way into every level of existence. And they often had the black eyes and great songs to prove it.

My friend, Kilda Defnut, in her Scared Maxim XXX states: “A good rock record gives a black eye or two.”

This is truly meant to be one of those old fashioned albums with continuous ebb and flow of emotions.  “Integration Tape” bridges the music into “Impermanence,” which has little to do with shoegaze and much more to do with mature heavy musical drama. This is slow beautiful stuff. It’s the contemplative calm after the storm. And there’s yet a lovely guitar solo to boot. Then “White Sands” finishes the album with its slow gauzy maze of acoustic beauty and climatic intensity which drifts into quiet conversation, which may well  be the way all things end—not with a bang or a whimper—but rather with a slow tune and muted voices.

The great Richard Thompson, no slouch of a guitar player himself, once wrote, “If you really mean it, it all comes round again.” I think these guys meant it way back then. And now I think that their new record truly has come round again. I really like this record. It’s always nice to be back from the dead.

Now, I give this one full marks, but anyone who didn’t much care for the shoegazing sound way back then, won’t find this one to be a game changer. However, anyone who likes the look and comfort of a brand new pair of shoes, well, this ride is for you. And yes, that one was intentional.

*In Huck Finn, Nat, who guards the escaped slave Jim (who is ironically the spiritual father to Huck), says that he wouldn’t touch the witch pie “f’r ten hund’d thous’n billion dollars.” That’s a “High Figure.”

 

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