Ride Struggle to Find a New Identity on 'Tomorrow's Shore'
The latest from the British indie icons is an EP of material recorded during the sessions of last year's Weather Diaries, and it feels just as confused and inconsistent as its predecessor.
16 Feb 2018
Ride's reunion is something of a redemption story, though newer fans may not know just how far the band fell before they split up. Growing out of the shoegaze boom in the UK in the late '80s and early '90s, Ride produced two of the genre's finest albums in Nowhere and Going Blank Again. They skillfully incorporated more overt nods to the psychedelia that always seemed to be bubbling under the surface of most shoegaze stuff, and in doing so created a style that felt more like a rock band than the austere pop of Slowdive or Lush. Then Britpop hit, and Ride cast their lot with the likes of Supergrass and Ocean Colour Scene in an attempt to become the next Oasis (a feat Andy Bell would eventually achieve by joining Oasis in 1999). Thus, Ride were somewhat forgotten despite having produced two masterpieces, so it's nice to see the band enjoying the renewed adulation.
However, it's hard to get excited about the new material Ride have been making. Weather Diaries was largely fine and not as offensively pandering as their late '90s stuff, but it was hardly transcendent in any way. On that record, Ride seemed to be struggling with reconciling their past as a band with a potential way forward, marrying shoegaze, electronica and earthy psychedelia with limited success. Tomorrow's Shore, a collection of songs recorded during the Weather Diaries sessions, arguably goes further towards figuring out Ride's place in the modern musical landscape. In doing so, though, they seem to have lost a bit of what made them so special in the first place.
Ride's overt nods to psychedelia have become a bit more in vogue in the wider rock sphere, with groups like Tame Impala and MGMT finding success in reinterpreting that spacy mysticism for a new generation. To a certain extent, Ride seem to have captured this spirit far more on Tomorrow's Shore than they did on Weather Diaries, which seemed partially stuck in the malaise of modern world. In contrast, we get the starry-eyed "Pulsar", an arena-filling rocker that adds the harsher edge Ride were always able to add to their songs without diving headfirst into macho rock posturing. Even better are the atmospherics the band creates on "Catch You Dreaming", one of the saddest songs in the band's oeuvre and a sure sign of their maturity. This is a band of middle-aged men, after all, and ruminations about the end of the world are far more fitting than the doe-eyed romanticism some fans may still crave. At its best, Tomorrow's Shore gives Ride some options as to what they could be.
Sadly, not everything about Tomorrow's Shore coalesces in a satisfactory manner, and the other two songs on this EP carry the marks of songwriting experiments gone amiss. While some aspects of the revived Ride nod to neo-psychedelia, "Keep It Surreal" settles for aping the aesthetic entirely without any interesting variations or distinct flourishes. Similarly, the psych retread "Cold Water People", where even the slightly dour lyrics can't save a half-baked idea of a song.
Given how inconsequential Tomorrow's Shore could have been, it's a credit to Ride that they put out something with material that equals (and, in some cases, surpasses) what they put out on their reunion record last year. Even so, Ride still struggle with the question of what they are to a music-listening audience in the 2010s. While far from lazy or uninspired, Tomorrow's Shore is still a slightly disappointing work from a once-great band who seem out of their time.