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What's new in iJamming!...
Tue, Oct 23, 2001
ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN: "Flowers is Echo & The Bunnymen's finest hour since Ocean Rain."
An intrigue of early 90s New York nightlife.
NEW CHAPTER now online
From the Jamming! Archives:
U2 interviewed in 1984.
"It's not U2 that's creating this great art. . .There's something that works through us to create in this way."
My immediate reaction to September 11
PART 2: Messages from friends & family overseas
PART 3: Observations & quotes from others.
PART 5: COPING - 2 weeks later
iJamming! Wino/Muso:
"New world wines are just too techno for me."
Featured albums
(Hub, Slumber Party, DJ Harry, Spearhead, The Who tribute
Albums that sound different since September 11
(Charlatans UK, Arabian Travels, Cafe del Mar, Sugarcult)
Featured wine region 3:
Featured wine region 4:
iJamming! interview:
Jesse Hartman, aka LAPTOP
"Every New York band knows the meaning of failure"
MIX Albums:
Who, what and why you should bother (DB, Spooky, Jody, RSW, Bad Boy Bill)
FEATURED Wines (Langlois Cremant de Loire, Honig Sauvignon Blanc, Campbell's Muscat, Brumont Gros Manseng, Dr Frank Gewürtztraminer, Daubree CoteRotie, Dry Creek Chenin Blanc, Mas Saint Laurent Picpoul, Quivira Dry Creek)
"I don't think people realize that life can become so exciting and interesting that it can draw you away for long periods of time from creating music - & why not?"
From the Keith Moon archives:
the JEFF BECK interview .
From Homework to the Disco:
grows up and dumbs down
The iJAMMING! chat:

"If I was asked why Sniffin' Glue was so important, it was the way we conducted ourselves, the style of it, just the attitude. It had attitude in abundance didn't it?"
The Return of Shoegazing:
DOVES take New York by swarm
Forgotten Classics:
THE CHILLS: Brave Words
THE iJAMMING! Book Review:
SNIFFIN' GLUE: The Essential Punk Accessory
Musing with SALLY TAYLOR:
"I'm not interested in what the major labels have to offer."
From the JAMMING! archives: PAUL WELLER ON POP
Featured wine region 2:
From the JAMMING! archives: ALTERNATIVE TV
interviewed in 1978
Fran Healy explains why "you cannot own a song." (And why Liam Gallagher "is going to turn into a really great songwriter.")
Featured Artist Web Site:
From the JAMMING! archives: The Story That Spawned Creation
Featured vine:
Finally, a worthy rival to Chardonnay.
The iJAMMING! interview:
"Once you've had your go, what-ever it may be, they want you to piss off, and they can't bear it if you come back, they can't bear it."
They love rock'n'roll but they don't want to deal with the hassle
From the JAMMING! archives: RAYMONDE in 1985
The full iJamming! Contents

No one releases cassettes anymore. Which makes finding new music for the increasingly outdated Walkman ever more difficult. Fortunately I'm the worst at throwing out old music, so a few months ago, in despair at playing the same old mix tapes every time I go out running or into Manhattan by subway, I descended to the cellar to retrieve some of the cassettes I've boxed up over the years. There were (and still are) thousands of the little buggers down there, and opening just a couple of boxes brought back all kinds of memories: The Housemartins, Faith Brothers, Working Week, Pale Fountains, and hundreds of other 1980s UK acts in one box, but also The Replacements, The Three O'Clock, and on to NWA, BDP, Coldcut and a ridiculous amount of here-today-gone-tomorrow R&B in others. Don't forget that in the early to mid 1990s, all advance music was sent to journalists in the shape of cassettes, and for a while when the format was dominating sales, many final releases came that way as well.

So this spring saw a whole period of rediscovery every time I had a subway ride or walk around the block - seeing which albums sounded as good as I remembered them, which had possibly even improved, and which were years past their sell date. One that succeeded on both the first two counts was Ride's debut album, 'Nowhere.' Hailed at the time, one might have expected it a decade later to show itself as just another overhyped debut from another British band that couldn't meet expectations; happily, it reveals itself as even more a classic than it seemed at the time.

Flashback to the dawn of the 1990s and rock music in the UK was alive and thriving alongside the nascent rave scene. The Stone Roses in particular had demonstrated how dance music could influence nothing more complex (yet important) than your vibe, and a crop of new psychedelic bands emerged to play their part in what seemed like a return to the late 60s heyday of peace and love and acid - in both its house music and rock music forms.

In that wonderful British tradition of genre-naming, these new psychedelic rockers came to be called "shoegazers." It was a comic name, but perfectly well-suited to the groups' onstage habit of so immersing themselves in their music as to spend entire performances staring down at their guitars - giving the firm impression that they were studying their shoelaces. A wacky name does not a decent movement guarantee of course, but shoegazing produced a clutch of great bands - Chapterhouse, Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine, Lush, early Blur, the Catherine Wheel and Ride among them. All specialized in a wash of intense volume, a hazy vocal buried in the mix, eerily modulating chord progressions and ethereal lyrics that were probably best not being studied too closely on paper. With the exception of early Blur, who quickly jumped ship, and Chapterhouse, who I don't recall seeing in the flesh, all these bands were best experienced live where they would lift you up on a sea of volume and put you down a changed and generally exhilarated - if deafened - person an hour later.

Ride were a quartet from Oxford that had all the right ingredients to transcend the movement's predictably short lifespan - youth, ambition, good looks, proficiency, and one of the fiercest, loudest live shows of them all. But as well as a solid rhythm section in bassist Stephen Queralt and drummer Loz Colbert they also had two songwriters and potential bandleaders in Andy Bell and Mark Gardner, a dangerous situation for any band since the Beatles. Quickly making an impact by virtue of feedback driven live shows, Ride were signed to Creation within a year of forming, released one EP at the end of 1989 and another in the spring of 1990. Gathered together on an American mini-album, Smile, these eight songs showed potential - but not greatness.

That was left to the album Nowhere, released at the end of 1990. It opened menacingly with a ringing crash cymbal, a squeal of feedback and then a wail of guitars cascading around variations on one chord while a bass motif hopped its way up and down an arpeggio melody for a full minute. It was the same kind of simplistic psychedelia both the Stone Roses and Charlatans had been using to great effect at the end of their debut albums ('I Am The Resurrection' and 'Sprouston Green' respectively): Ride's confidence was such that they dared start out like they were climaxing. When the vocals came in, it was Bell and Gardener together, harmonizing - but utilizing hymnal major fourths and fifths, rather than the thirds that are the mainstay of pop music. It was a classic psychedelic ploy straight out of late sixties baroque'n'roll, but vested with the group's indisputable energy, the effect was deliriously contemporary.

The lyrics were lovably gothic-poetic. "You make my life a waking dream, but you are dead, falling like ashes to the floor," they sang on the opening track 'Seagull;' "I don't want you to see my face, when I fade away and leave this place," went the subsequent 'Kaleidoscope,' which raced along as if there were hallucinogenic drugs awaiting the first to finish. The haunting 'Polar Bear' was far slower, opening with a guitar set to echo delay, another wash of cymbals and the plaintive opening vocal "She knew she was able to fly, but just when she came down, she had dust on her hands from the sky." It was that kind of album - reaching for the stars, and occasionally succeeding in touching the moon. More to the point, it had the quality that separates classic debuts from merely excellent debuts: there was not a dud among its eleven songs . For all that it started strong, Nowhere ended even stronger, with the restrained (and radio-friendly) 'Vapour Trail' and restive 'Taste,' tracks 8 and 9 respectively, among the album's very best and most popular.

From start to finish, as the guitars - acoustic, electric, riffing and jangling - weave in and out of each other, and those oddly hymnal vocals intimate magic and mystique, there's this unmistakable intensity which sweeps the listener along, every chord being hammered out as if the players' lives depended on it, which at the time they probably did.

Listening to Nowhere a decade after release - and I have to say, it sounded better on headphones, walking round taking in Manhattan's magic, than pounding out over the home speakers in mid-morning - the production quality is clearly lacking. It's thin at times, boxy at others, even allowing for the baroque grandeur of the arrangements. But that's at least one reason why Alan McGee at Creation and Seymour Stein at Sire (who licensed it in the States) became great record people, because they understood the importance of performance over production during a group's early stages. Nowhere sounds like a great band that knows it's a great band and just wants the chance to prove it, without getting bogged down in multiple takes, endless overdubs, and rearrangements that emphasise melody at the expense of band harmony. From start to finish, as the guitars - acoustic, electric, riffing and jangling - weave in and out of each other, and those oddly hymnal vocals intimate magic and mystique, there's this unmistakable intensity which sweeps the listener along, every chord being hammered out as if the players' lives depended on it, which at the time they probably did.

Ride's star continued to ascend a while. Going Blank Again followed a year later; better produced, more focused on the song than the performance, but still vibrant and occasionally hard as nails, it was a top five UK album, and added to the group's considerable US following. But touring in the States is never half as much fun as it looks, and with tensions on the tour bus growing, the band took time off. When they returned in 1994, "shoegazing" was old hat. In fact, confidence in British rock had sunk to an all time low, and Carnival of Light seemed to reflect the uncertainty of its time. Mellow but not melodic, hippied out rather than tripped out, not even John Leckie's production or a cover of The Creation's 'How does it Feel to feel?' could save it. Noticeably, the personality splits had grown to the extent that the first half was almost exclusively Gardener compositions, the second half Bell's. Great groups can't work with that amount of animosity - as even the Beatles discovered - and 1996's Tarantula, predominantly Bell compositions, was preceded by the unsurprising news that the band had, well, disbanded. Any hopes of being rejuvenated by and accepted into the suddenly flourishing Britpop movement a la The Charlatans were DOA.

Andy Bell, the more conventional of the two songwriters, married another Creation artist, Idha, went on to significant UK success with Hurricane #1 (on Creation) and ended up joining Creation's financial saviors Oasis. (Though for how long that day job can be guaranteed is uncertain.) Mark Gardener, whose hair length generally indicated him to be the more blissed out member, moved to the States and has been heard of rarely since. Nowhere is their lasting legacy, one more classic album than most musicians can ever hope for in a lifetime.
In an old-fashioned magazine, this story might just encourage you to revisit your record collection or look for Nowhere in a used CD store. The Internet allows you to follow up immediately, listening to tracks on your computer while reading other reviews and comments. Until setting up the following links, it had totally escaped me that I wrote a brief review of this album for Barnes& about three years ago, which obviously does truly qualify Nowhere as a "forgotten classic." (But jump also to their review from the Allstar Guide of Tarantula which is as damning as anything I've read: how Ride fell!), as always, carries a considerable number of 'listener' feedbacks, which shows that the cult of Ride did not end with the band's demise. CDNow carries a reliable Ride biography, lists compilations the group appeared on, and seems to have samples available of every track recorded; it also reprints CMJ's reviews from the time of release, which makes for an interesting perspective. But in one of those lovable examples of how the robots have taken over the asylum, CDNow also suggests that if you like Ride, you might like the Swan Lake ballet and Organs Of Willem Hermans In Pi. Sounds like someone out there took Ride's baroque influence a little too seriously!

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