Secret Meeting score: 70
by Phil Scarisbrick
One trend born out of today’s digitalised industry is defunct bands reforming to cash in on past success by playing their back catalogue to nostalgia seekers around the world. Nowadays, touring is where the bulk of the revenue is generated for most artists, making it far easier for them to make a few quid. One act that seems to have bucked that trend is Oxford’s premier shoe-gaze virtuosos: Ride.
After performing a series of barnstorming comeback gigs, they put out an album of new material last year called Weather Diaries – their first record for over two decades. But, rather than relying on former glories and reinventing the wheel, they made an album that sounded totally contemporary. Lyrically, it deals with the post-Brexit world we face and contained just enough of the old Ride we loved to please their predominantly middle-aged audience. Ironically though, the new EP of cast-offs from this album, Tomorrow’s Shore EP, feels even more modern and totally relevant for the world as it stands now.
The kind of shoe-gaze electronica that now sees people like Kevin Parker schmoozing with global icons such as Rihanna and Kanye West shines through this record. Pulsar stomps along in a style reminiscent of Empire of the Sun or MGMT. There is a triumphant feel to it yet the lyrics contain a thinly-veiled fragility, with lead singer Mark Gardener conceding, ‘You know that something was, will never be again/We glimmer in the dark of a life we haven’t known’.
Keep it Surreal is a Krautrock, fuzz-pop banger. With falsetto harmonies and a Big Muff-laden guitar solo, it pops along in a joyous manner. Every note is carefully considered but sounds like a barrage of pleasing ideas. Cold Water People is the most traditional sounding Ride song, with a textured psychedelia that has much in common with fellow shoe-gaze reformees, My Bloody Valentine.
EP closer, Catch You Dreaming, is the biggest departure from the traditional Ride aesthetic here. With its bleak narrative of the last two people on Earth awaiting their fate before it finally implodes, it should have some sort of gravitas. Unfortunately it is lacking any sort of catharsis and we’re left with something quite bland. It plays to none of their strengths and feels like it was tagged on to even out the A and B sides of the EP.
Where Weather Diaries staked a claim for being a contemporary psych-rock vision, Tomorrow’s Shore also achieves it for the most part. Despite the misstep of the final track, you can’t help but wonder why these songs were left off the LP. We can be thankful then they see the light of day here. While their contemporaries Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine have stuck to the formula that brought them their initial success when they too reformed, it is refreshing to see Ride take risks. They may stumble at times but it when it works it is utterly glorious.