Music

Ride: Weather Diaries

Oxford’s dreaming sons erase their ending with an album that is fondly unfamiliar and more rewarding for it.


Ride

Weather Diaries

Label: Wichita
US Release Date: 2017-06-16
UK Release Date: 2017-06-16
Label Website
Artist Website
Amazon
iTunes

“A better sense can start again,” sings Mark Gardener on “Lannoy Point", a metronomic meteor spinning tightly along a Korg Poly 61 synth pattern. The song’s lyrics are a rebuttal to the current Brexit-ified social climate in Ride’s native land, one that is mirrored and magnified here in the US. All the same, it’s hard not to imagine at least a tiny trace of self-appraisal in the idea of ‘starting again’ coming as it does on the opening track of Weather Diaries, the band’s first album since Tarantula in 1996.

The temptation to reappraise Tarantula too positively should be thought through before being acted upon, but the reception it met upon its release was particularly ignoble. Its shortcomings were downright reveled in by certain reviewers at certain music weeklies, and it was famously ‘deleted’ by Creation Records shortly after that as if trying to erase it from memory immediately. Given that Ride were splitting up at the time, there wasn’t much incentive for them to come running to its defense. Still, on their 2015 reunion tour, Ride broke out the album’s pounding single “Black Nite Crash”, and rightly so.

Ride came from an era in British popular music where it was natural, if not expected, that a band would switch up its style or turn in a new direction with each album. This hasn’t always matched up with the expectations of American audiences, which have been more in tune with the national predilection for product consistency. Blur finally translated to wider US audiences when they decided to speak our language with “Song 2”, and only then did we agree to start digging backward through their catalog until we reached a point where we can pretend we were all into Parklife the whole time. In Ride’s case, it was their earlier material that made the biggest impression on the American indie consciousness.

This is why those closely timed reunion tours and this year’s even-more-closely timed reunion albums from Ride and Slowdive feel so much a part of the same revitalization. Certainly the bands were friends from nearby towns (Oxford and Reading) and played a number of shows together, and their first EPs and albums are the archetypal sound of shoegaze. Nowhere was as far as Ride took that sonic approximation of tiptoeing atop the dreaming spires of their home. Going Blank Again dialed back the delay and reverb to unveil an ambitious post-shoegaze plan. Carnival of Light then dialed up the ‘60s retro-isms to less success, though it wasn’t without its highlights.

Ride have not picked up where they left off, nor have they pandered and written ten new versions of “Vapour Trail". The first wouldn’t have been much of an option, but neither would the second, really. As individuals, to one degree or another, they never stopped growing as musicians. Before Ride got back together, co-leader Andy Bell had spent more years of his musical career as the bass player in Oasis than in the band he founded. There are passages in Weather Diaries that can allow one to connect with the feeling of Nowhere or Going Blank Again, but Ride haven’t written new music to indulge their past. Much like Slowdive have achieved on their new self-titled album, Gardener, Bell, Steve Queralt and Loz Colbert have found a way forward together that wasn’t available before.

One reason for why Ride may not want to spend much time in the past is because they keep seeing it everywhere they look. “While you were sleeping on it / Your future was thrown from under you / It's not a pretty picture / This is 1932” goes a potent line in “All I Want” that compares the current political situation in the UK to Weimar Germany near its end. The band didn’t make a formal decision to focus on such matters, Bell explained to the NME, it’s that things have become too screwed up to go ignored. To that end, the album’s title track captures the disturbing calm of an unseasonably pleasant day in a world of climate change: “I’m unsettled by the weather / It’s getting stranger / Should it be this good right now / Are we in some kind of danger?”

“Home Is a Feeling” and “Weather Diaries” are a central pair of big, billowing songs to find the familiar Nowhere in -- how good it is to hear those trademark vocal harmonies again -- and “Lateral Alice” is a two-minute-plus basher like “Black Nite Crash” that swaps the Bob Dylan literary love for a dream date with David Foster Wallace. Overall, however, Weather Diaries is often fondly unfamiliar and more rewarding for it. It is wiry and lithe throughout where 20 years prior they might have plodded along. From the strength-to-strength start of “Lannoy Point”, ”Charm Assault” and “All I Want”, to the unspooling closing reflections of “Integration Tape”, “Impermanence”, and “White Sands”, every decision and idea feels thought through.

Whichever model of Ride one is expecting, and however closely Weather Diaries gets to such expectations, they’ve succeeded at moving past the “heritage’ tour stage and have planted their feet on new ground. For now, Ride have amended their own ending, and also left it unwritten.

8

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less
popular

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

Scholar Judith May Fathallah's work blurs lines between author and ethnographer, fan experiences and genre TV storytelling.

In Fanfiction and the Author: How Fanfic Changes Popular Culture Texts, author Judith May Fathallah investigates the progressive intersections between popular culture and fan studies, expanding scholarly discourse concerning how contemporary blurred lines between texts and audiences result in evolving mediated practices.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
3
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image