Ride were never really a shoegaze band. Right from the very first time I saw them, in early 1990 on the Play tour – jammed in down the front, pumped full of my usual student cocktail of Littlewoods’ sherry and Carlsberg Special Brew, being pummelled by a sheer wall of noise – it was obvious that they weren’t your usual effete, floppy-fringed pedal-worriers and had more in common with Dinosaur Jr, Husker Du and Big Black than they did with The Cocteau Twins or Lush. Big dirty stinkin’ basslines, skyscraping guitar riffs and noisy, hook-laden pop songs are not the hallmarks of a shoegaze band, and Ride had ‘em all in spades, as evinced on stunning second album Going Blank Again.
They lost their way a bit after that, as young bands often do, foolishly sidetracked by a search for “authenticity” (as if The Flying Burrito Brothers are in any way more “authentic” than Sonic Youth or Pixies) on their patchy but occasionally wonderful third album Carnival of Light, before fizzling out altogether in 1996.
So it’s a pleasant surprise that Weather Diaries isn’t shit – far from it in fact; and an even bigger one that it sees the band pick up where Going Blank Again left off and deliver the album they should’ve made in 1994. It sounds a lot like Going Blank Again, it has big noisy pop songs, it has dreamy ballads, and it’s really very very good indeed.
Yes, it’s front-loaded, as is the way of things these days, but what a load it is. Opener ‘Lannoy Point’ bounds along, driven by that always underrated rhythm section (Andy Bell sounds delighted to be freed from the dadrock confines of Beady Eye throughout) and a fluid, chiming guitar riff filched from DIIV, and is quickly followed by ‘Charm Assault’, apparently an attack on Boris Johnson – always a good thing – with a riffmungous chorus. ‘All I Want’ may start off with a highly annoying and unnecessary vocal sample but otherwise it could have sat comfortably on that second album, and shows off Erol Alkan’s crisp, punchy production a treat.
At this point the pace drops somewhat, with ‘Home is a Feeling’ sounding somewhat like a Nowhere-era reject, and the title track, though very pretty and boasting a lovely Bell vocal, outstaying its welcome by a good 3 minutes. But the double-whammy of the Spacemen 3-meet-David Foster Wallace ‘Lateral Alice’ and irresistible ‘Debaser’ tribute ‘Cali’ (one of the high points of their career, let alone this album) quickly picks it up again, and by the time the latter’s glorious 6 minutes are over I’m almost as excited as I was back in October 1992, the last time I saw them, at Paris’ Elysee Montmartre where they delivered a set so loud, so assured, so perfect, that you genuinely felt they could conquer the planet.
‘Cali’ isn’t, unfortunately, the perfect ending for which Weather Diaries is crying out. It’s a badly sequenced album, and ends not with a bang, or the truly beautiful, inspirational ‘Impermanence’, but the pleasant but forgettable and over-long ‘White Sands’. But fuck it. At least 70% of this album is bloody brilliant and that, 25 years after their last great album, is little short of a miracle in itself. And now excuse me, but as LL Cool J once said, I’m going back to ‘Cali’.