Of all the sad remnants of the early 1990s, you’d be pretty hard pressed to find anything sadder than the lead singer of Ride undertaking a tour of Australia, ten years after the band fizzled out, like luke-warm piss floating down an alleyway behind the Punters Club. That’s because the Punters doesn’t exist anymore, and Ride were the shoegazer band par excellence. To make any kind of comeback simply proves how of the moment Ride truly were, and how pathetic they sound now.
Okay, I’m being harsh. They had some good songs. They did to Australian indie rock what Nirvana did to the world – that is, I’m not so sure what they did but at least it was something noisy. They were prettier than MBV and artier than anyone else. Their first EP featured roses on the cover; the second daffodils; the third, penguins. That their fourth (the turgid Today Forever, released in between albums Nowhere and Going Blank Again) featured a white pointer shark suggested that the original shoe-gazing indie boys had learnt the hard way how art doesn’t pay; in fact, is bound to be swallowed whole by both time and money.
“Sharks patrol these waters” said Morphine; and I’m afraid I have to agree.
My brother actually saw Ride before me, at the Hordern Pavilion in 1992, playing on the same bill as what was basically the entirety of Aussie indie pop at the time: Ratcat, the Falling Joys, the Welcome Mat (I think), the Hummingbirds (probably), the Clouds (maybe) and some other Mushroom or Redeye act. According to him, Ride came on (last?) and blew the rest of them apart, which you’d have to expect really, as their trademark was a “wall of noise” – and I’m not talking Phil Spector.
I saw Ride at the Paddington RSL supported by Swirl (perhaps Australia’s all-time greatest shoegazer band). It was a very loud gig indeed. They were very fey, almost corpose-like on stage, all very pretty, la. It’s funny how such prettiness was acceptable amongst straight-acting indie kids, how it’s still okay to adore pasty boys in Doc Martens and obscure-band t-shirts. Whatever.
At the time I think they (Ride) only had about three good songs (this was before Going Blank Again was released – though they did play the monstrous single off that album, “Leave Them All Behind”, making good use of some Aztec-style lights n’ lasers). The funny thing about them was that their first EP (Ride) looked so good but was really just garage crap (the kind of crap the Earthmen managed to record on their first couple of vinyl singles).
The second one (Play) started off with perhaps their greatest song ever – “Like A Daydream” – after which it sank back into turgid territory again; the third – Fall (the one with the penguins on the cover) was perhaps their best – featuring the slightly bombastic “Dreams Burn Down”.
Then came the album Nowhere which in Australia had Fall tacked on the end of it; then came the Today Forever EP (enough said); Going Blank Again; and then two more albums of such ineffable shite I can’t even bring myself to name, catalogue or even describe them (let alone recall what was on the front covers).
The saddest thing of all, apart from Mark Gardener’s impending snooze-fest, is that Creation have just brought out a Ride best-of. Best of freaking what, I’d like to know. Looking for a band that sums up everything that was good and bad about the early 1990s? Look no further. That band is Ride. Thank you, Richard Kingsmill.