Ride : Interplay

Ride Interplay review

Time has been kind to shoegaze and its attendant sibling genres like slowcore, Madchester, and the like. While for decades it slept as a niche alternative genre, something shifted eventually and interest surged seemingly from nowhere, new bands formed, old bands reunited, and somewhere along the way Duster became a viral hit (a wildly deserving group if ever there was one, despite the mystery of it all). Ride‘s reunion run, starting with 2017’s Weather Diaries and continuing on to 2019’s This Is Not A Safe Place felt like works that at once sought to please the initial impetus of the group, a sense somewhat lost along the way on the admittedly underrated Carnival of Light and Tarantula records, as much as they were brimming with an ambition to top the songwriting quality showcased on their early EPs and those first two glorious records. It took time for me, but that 2019 album slowly muscled its way up to my favorite of the band’s, borrowing wisely from the innovations of contemporary shoegaze and post-punk groups while feeling distinctly like Ride and perhaps the only record they have ever put out which properly follows up that legendary debut.

So I was at first disappointed when Interplay moved away from the electronic and krautrock elements of that esteemed predecessor that made it so successful in my eyes. Here, the group dials into something a bit perhaps closer to the real core inspirations of the group and even their genre as a whole, letting the album feel dappled in paisley, the art pop of groups like the Zombies and Love feeling more pressing as influences than Siouxsie and the Banshees or Kraftwerk. The energy levels on this one are lower than the last, almost as if Slowdive and Ride switched up their notes for their newest post-reunion albums, with Slowdive producing a high-energy electronics-soaked banger of an album and Ride exploring more peaceable psychedelic terrain. At times the group lays down a hook or synth melody that reminds you why groups like Editors looked so fondly to them for musical inspiration, but for the most part the album feels like a kind of reclamation of Carnival of Light, replacing the folky instrumental beds with something closer to their more expected fare but retaining that sense of gentility and tunefulness.

Perhaps its because of the success of the previous two that this one feels less of an urge to impress. To Ride’s credit, these are quality songs, extending a run that now has more high-quality records under its belt than their initial run (or tying if you count their EP collection as a superlative early shoegaze record, as you should). The result is admittedly a sense of patience and calm confidence that was lacking on the previous two of this reunion era. Those two had to prove the vitality of the group, had to prove the shockingly good 30-minute jam released on the frustratingly hard-to-find Come Up For Air wasn’t a fluke but indication of gas left in the tank.

They proved their point; Ride is a contemporary touring and recording unit now, not a historical one, bringing to mind a similar shift that Wire underwent when they set themselves to rights as a modern unit. This is songwriting without anxiety, allowing itself a more amorphous shape and meditative timbre. It’s music for car rides, highway hypnosis and droning tunes creating that heathaze desert sheen in the mind.

The end lets some light in. It’s still a half-sleepy daydream sensibility, but hey, that’s shoegaze. “Portland Rocks,” despite its silly title, feels like something that would have been a college rock staple in the early ’90s, the kind of song that Smashing Pumpkins would have casually tossed off on Siamese Dream as an effortless dream pop jewel. The near-epic “Essaouira,” nudging just past seven minutes but feeling like it can (and should) be extended much longer live, feels like the real purpose of the record. It’s a beautiful ocean of a song, lapping waves of prog development and soundscaping against brilliant pop hooks and elastic post-soul bass and drum playing. If I could wave a magic wand, it would be to reshape the whole album like this song, a piece that stands comfortably next to those similar 7-minute cuts The Horrors used to drop when they were still mining dream pop and shoegaze. The comfort and confidence of age can sometimes be mistaken for phoning it in rather than the joy of the worker working, but it is a required element for a song like this, which feels effortless in its elaboration and construction, almost as if they sat down at their instruments, pressed record and it all fell out at once. It is also, coincidentally, the closest in feeling to that monumental 30-minute jam I mentioned before, an affirmation of their post-prog capacities even as they spend nearly a full album making art rock-laced pop tunes. Even if Interplay doesn’t top the Ride’s past triumphs, it shows a continued vivacity that I don’t want to stop. For any active unit, that’s enough.

Label: Wichita

Year: 2024

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