Slowdive Souvlaki album cover



Creation Records // CRELP074

I’ll admit that I never gave Ride a proper chance. The inexplicable “shoegaze” misnomer they were tagged with in the '90s continues to persist, causing me no small amount of annoyance. At this point, I have to assume it’s because they were on Creation Records, then home to fuzz gods My Bloody Valentine . There’s no other plausible reason for a band that had more in common with the House of Love to be considered as stylistic contemporaries of Messrs. Shields, Butcher, Googe and O'Closoig.

OK yes, I am slighly OCD about genre classification, but shoegaze has a fairly specific sound and expanding the definition to include Ride doesn’t do the band any favours. “Seagull” for instance isn’t too far removed from "we're a harder rocking Byrds" sound they established on their 1989 EPs. “Polar Bear” on the other hand has a neat “How Soon is Now?” -ish oscillating riff punctuating the melody. In all honesty, Nowhere is a very decent record if you enjoy the jangle-pop guitars of the Smiths and early Primal Scream and don't mind the occasional blast of guitar fuzz.

But it’s really only on “Dreams Burn Down” that you hear anything approaching the guitar crunch of the noise pop or shoegaze of the era. Compare the upbeat, jangly melodies of something like “Kaleidoscope” with the Boo Radleys’ track of the same name on Ichabod & I(also released in 1990) - basically no comparison, with the Boo’s version simply awash with post-punk lo-fi distortion.

The original 8-song LP release on Creation ends with Vapour Trail, often hastily pegged as a shoegazer anthem when it’s nothing of the sort. If anything, it pioneered the guitar/strings/keyboards combination used to terrible effect in a thousand sappy alt-rock ballads that would infest the coming decade. The CD release of the album saves it somewhat by adding 3 tracks, which include the swirling, moody, dark as hell title track “Nowhere”. It was this same epic style of distorted, elongated guitar jams they’d employ to maximum effect on future crushers like “Grasshopper” and “Leave Them All Behind”. For such a powerfully evocative title track to be left out of the LP entirely is nothing short of criminal.

Psychocandy was shoegaze. Isn't Anything was shoegaze. Ride on the other hand are merely good at mixing paisley rock melodies with somewhat loud, sometimes distorted guitars. It could be argued that they actually did a better job of this on the preceding EPs that had cuts like 'Drive Blind’ and 'Like a Daydream’. When it comes to proper reverse-reverb, behind the bridge distortion shoegaze, however, they simply cannot fuck with the actual greats of the genre. They probably never even intended to.