We fill up our days and nights
We fill up our empty little lives
But we know we are doomed
The moment we walk out the room
* * *
Ride began their existence as one of the greatest British bands of all time in 1988, in Oxfordshire. The original lineup, which remained the same until the band broke up in early 1996, consisted of Andy Bell (vocals, guitar; not the same guy that sings for Erasure), Mark Gardener (vocals, guitar), Stephan Queralt (bass guitar), and Loz Colbert (drums), all of whom were in their teens when the band formed. Then-fledgling record label Creation Records (of My Bloody Valentine fame) signed Ride a year later in 1989, based on the strength of their demo tape. Creation dutifully put the band to work in a recording studio, and in about a month they turned out the Ride EP. Creation sat on it for a while, and eventually released it on January 15, 1990. First impressions of the band's sound on the British music press and listeners were that the band was merely another My Bloody Valentine clone, but they quickly changed this opinion based on the fact that it was becoming more and more obvious that Ride was perhaps the most original band since My Bloody Valentine; fewer bands since Ride have endured such high expectations.
Two more EPs and a full-length album were released before the end of 1990; the Play and Fall EPs, and the full-length Nowhere, which consisted in part of the bulk of the Fall EP. Nowhere was very successful in England, leading Sire Records to sign the band in tandem with Creation; Sire would handle the Ride's distribution in North America, where, as is the case with 99% of all good European music, they remained obscure. Nowhere topped out at number fourteen on the UK indie chart. Like Catherine Wheel, Ride was adored and praised by the British music press and hardcore British music enthusiasts, but not too many other people. Their clout with the music press managed to get a few of their singles into the UK top twenty and top ten, but major success eluded the band.
In 1992, Going Blank Again was released, the band's second full-length album. The moderate success of that album brought them to Japan and North America. It was also around this time that some tension began to kindle between Andy Bell and Mark Gardener, the band's primary songwriters. This lead to a noticable lack of new material after Going Blank Again was released, and after a largely ignored tour of North America with Slowdive (a show I would give any limb to see now, but was sadly ignorant of in 1992), the band went on hiatus. (The Smile EP, released in 1992, was merely a compilation of the first two Ride EPs, Ride and Play.)
Ride resurfaced in mid-1994 with the Birdman EP. This EP marks the shift in direction the band began embarking on. Birdman and the follow-up album, Carnival of Light, were quite reminiscent of 1960s psychedelic rock bands, like a British-accented Creedence Clearwater Revival. The Britpop element was still there, though it was almost completely downplayed with the raw, hard-rocking core that made up the bulk of Carnival of Light. The band's purist fans enjoyed the record, but just about nobody else did, not even the British music press, who seemed to worship the ground Ride walked on up until then. The release of Carnival of Light coincided with the commercial demise of the shoegazer movement, of which Ride had loosely been a member. Quite suddenly it was very unpopular to like bands like Ride, which did not bode well for their record sales.
Creation Records punched out a couple of singles from Carnival of Light, two different retail versions of I Don't Know Where It Comes From. They also tanked, and again, after touring, Ride went on hiatus. Bell and Gardener were constantly sparking off one another by now, and finally they decided to break up the band. However, unlike just about every other band that's ever broken up, Ride re-entered the recording studio and recorded their final album together, 1996's Tarantula, which was more psychedelic rock, all hints of Britpop gone. They were still together (and putting the final post-production touches on Tarantula) when they released the album's lead single, Black Nite Crash. Both the single and the album tanked commercially, though the album wasn't released until a couple of months after the band was firmly disbanded.
Andy Bell went on to form Hurricane #1, which went on for a few years and put out three albums, and then he went on to join Oasis as their bass player. Mark Gardener joined up with Mikel Erentxun almost immediately following the demise of Ride, and he went on to join The Animalhouse along with Ride drummer Loz Colbert and Supergrass producer Sam Williams in 1997. Interestingly, Andy joined Animalhouse on stage at a few gigs in England, and some Ride songs were played. Colbert also landed a gig as the new drummer for The Jesus & Mary Chain. Gardener also toured North America in 2003 by himself, DJing at various clubs and playing acoustic live sets of his own songs, as well as a few choice Ride selections and Animalhouse tracks. Bassist Steve Queralt hasn't done anything within the music industry since Ride's split.
Lately, Andy has been contributing to Dean Garcia's (Curve) new band SPC ECO, whose music I highly recommend.
Leave them all behind
Wheels turning around
Into alien grounds
Pass through different times
Leave them all behind
Just to see
We've got so far to go
Until we get there
Just let it flow
Colours shining clear
Fading into night
Our grasp is broken
There's nothing we can do
I don't care about the colours
I don't care about the light
I don't care about the truth
Those of you who are second-generation fans of Britpop would do well to check out the works of Ride. At one time, they were considered "the last great hope" of British rock, and ended up completely fading away because their work turned out to be commercially unpalatable to some people. It's a shame, really.
Ignition Records went on to re-release all four Ride albums (all with extra tracks; mostly the b-sides from the singles from each album), as well as assemble a CD box set, which is truly excellent, particularly the Reading Festival 1992 CD. It sounds almost unimaginably intense; to be present for its recording must've been a near-religious experience.
Ride reformed very briefly in 2002 to record and release an EP entitled Coming Up For Air, to little fanfare. I haven't heard it yet (the band self-released it and I'm not an iTunes subscriber, so it'll be hard for me to end up hearing it or finding a copy), so I can't comment on its quality, but I wholly trust that it's probably excellent. It is, after all, a Ride record.
In the interest of completism, Ride's entire discography is included below.
Complete discography (chronological order, albums in bold)
- Ride (Creation Records / EP / January 15, 1990)
- Play (Creation Records / EP / April 2, 1990)
- Fall (Creation Records / EP / September 17, 1990)
- Nowhere (Creation Records, Sire Records / LP / October 15, 1990 / reissued by Ignition Records on September 24, 2001)
- Today Forever (Creation Records / EP / March 4, 1991)
- Kaleidoscope (Sire Records / EP / 1991)
- Leave Them All Behind (Sire Records / EP / February 10, 1992)
- Going Blank Again (Sire Records / LP / March 9, 1992 / reissued by Ignition Records on September 24, 2001)
- Twisterella (Sire Records / EP / April 13, 1992)
- Smile (Sire Records / EP / November 23, 1992 / reissued by Ignition Records on September 24, 2001)
- Birdman (Creation Records / EP / April 18, 1994)
- How Does It Feel To Feel? (Creation Records / EP / June 13, 1994)
- Carnival of Light (Sire Records / LP / June 20, 1994 / reissued by Ignition Records on September 24, 2001)
- I Don't Know Where It Comes From (#1) (Creation Records / EP / September 12, 1994)
- I Don't Know Where It Comes From (#2) (Creation Records / EP / September 26, 1994)
- Cosmic Carnival (Sire Records / Compilation / 1994)
- Live (WEA Records / EP / 1994)
- Live Light (Mutiny Records / LP / October 24, 1995)
- Black Nite Crash (Creation Records / EP / February 12, 1996)
- Tarantula (Sire Records / LP / March 11, 1996 / reissued by Ignition Records on September 24, 2001)
- OX4: The Best of Ride (Ignition Records / 3-disc set / September 24, 2001)
- Coming Up For Air (self-released / EP / October 1, 2002)
- Waves (Ignition Records / Compilation / 2003)