Ride - This is Not a Safe Place - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Ride - This is Not a Safe Place

by Tim Sentz Rating:8 Release Date:2019-08-16
Ride - This is Not a Safe Place
Ride - This is Not a Safe Place

The expectations of a reunion album can be so high that there’s absolutely no way a band can deliver on them. Look at Tool, who at the end of this month will drop their long-awaited fifth album after 13 long years. Most reunion albums come about because the musicians are poor or directionless, and more often times than not, they flop or break-up immediately after. The long gestating shoegaze revival came and went, but the big three shoegaze giants all delivered reasonable reunion records. Ride’s first album in 21 years, the lovely titled Weather Diaries, was a grab bag of Ride hallmarks. It didn’t stray too far in either direction and summed up what the trends at the time were. Those trends are still around now, but songs like “All I Want” showed the band in a more playful mood, willing to take risks that weren’t possible back in the 90s. 

This is Not a Safe Place is a miracle, given the fact that many reunion albums don’t see a follow-up with nearly as much heart. The first single, “Future Love” is one of the best post-reunion Ride songs to date. It’s everything their fans wanted. Breezy and shoegazey, with shimmering guitars and weightless vocals. At first listen, it was shocking that they’d bounce back after the lukewarm reception to Weather Diaries - an album that while good, had some glaring fumbles like the bizarre spoken word-esque bridge of  “Cali” mixed with sharp bangers like “Charm Assault.” “Repetition” veers post-punk a little, another trend from Ride’s heyday that fizzled out before being fully explored. It's jangly, fun, bubbly rock song that neither aids nor hurts the album. 

But just like Weather Diaries there are some baffling choices made on This is Not a Safe Place. Case in point, the first track “R.I.D.E.” which features one of the album’s most tragic moments when, of all things, to include a silly dub of “Ride” to an otherwise solid instrumental. This inclusion is befuddling. An unnecessary addition to a perfectly fine opening track. The head-scratching effects used on “Dial-Up,” because people are still using dial up, I guess. It’s dumb. Removing it would be fine, but the mixing choices on this album bring up questions as to how serious the process was taken. “Clouds of Saint Marie” sounds like a Ride cover band - one of the many that came about from the late 2000s boom in nostalgia that prefer woozy reverb over substance. 

Don’t get me wrong, This is Not a Safe Place is a good record, and I think the live representation of these songs will likely surpass how they are on record. But the mixing leaves a lot to be desired - things that were added after the recording was finished that just seem to add fluff where fluff wasn’t needed. Removing those elements would make This is Not a Safe Place that much better. On the plus side, there’s more good than bad on the album. “Eternal Recurrence” is classic Ride - dreamy, quietly noisy, and the pristine production makes it effervescent. Furthermore, “End Game” largely strong-arms most of Weather Diaries, even managing to squeeze this many lush soundscapes into less than four minutes. Its climax is standing ovation worthy as it spirals into this cliff of turmoil. It’s Ride at their most exhilarating on the album. If anything, This is Not a Safe Place is what probably should have come first, instead of Weather Diaries

The band is in prime form here. The lyrics, while never the strongest point of Ride, still feel perfectly paired with the songs, and don’t come off as cheesy as some did on Weather Diaries. Pound-for-pound This is Not a Safe Place is the superior record. Weather Diaries may have more appeal due to its catchy singles, but the follow-up matches the adrenaline felt in that album's highest points and mostly avoids the overall sap associated with its predecessor. Even as the album closes with “In This Room,” it all feels more complete than Weather Diaries on multiple levels. The experimentation and risks may be gone, but they aren’t really missed either. Goofy cover art aside, Ride have made a better reunion album, and it finds them more at home with what they are good at. And while there are some very questionable moves made on the album, it’s no doubt the third best Ride album.

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