Nowhere (Sire/Reprise ’90, Ignition '01) Rating: A
For a brief spell, Ride were one of the shining lights of the shoegazer scene that also included the likes of Chapterhouse, Catherine Wheel, Slowdive, Lush, and of course, My Bloody Valentine. After a pair of strong EPs, Ride and Play, both compiled on Smile (1992), the band, led by guitarist Andy Bell (later of Oasis) and Mark Gardener, released their best album, Nowhere, which was seen as a classic at the time but has become somewhat overlooked since as the shoegazer scene in general has been unfairly maligned by those who forget how fresh and exciting it once was. Anyway, one listen to Nowhere should dispel any claims against its overall quality, as this is a consistently stellar, filler-free release that has all the best shoegazer attributes, primarily gauzy, effects-laden dual guitars overrun by distortion, and sleepy vocals that are mixed back and almost work like another instrument. What Ride also had, what set them apart from the pack, was an unusually prominent, first-rate rhythm section (bassist Steve Queralt and drummer Laurence "Loz" Colbert, who especially stands out) and stellar tunes that were hummable as well as atmospheric. Picking highlights is tough, but certainly “Seagull” starts the album with an exciting, explosive rush of energy, and “Kaleidoscope” follows with another memorable song that’s rocking, moody, and melodic. The groovy, gorgeous “In A Different Place” features more up-front vocals and a fantastic flowing melody, though the guitars are still loud at times as well, and really the album goes from peak to peak; “Dreams Burn Down” is notable for its pretty guitars, “Decay” for its murky ambiance, and the original version of the album climaxes with “Vapour Trail,” arguably the shoegazer song and an inarguable classic. Chiming guitars, mournful cello, wearily singable “la la la” vocals, this melancholic yet rocking masterpiece has it all, and the album doesn’t stop there, as the cd version of the album tacks on three songs that were originally featured on the Fall EP (1990). Although “Nowhere” drones by uneventfully (the common complaint against the shoegazer genre), “Taste” and “Here And Now” are excellent additions that strengthen an already formidable package. More sighing vocals, drum flurries, and even harmonica interjections on the latter, what’s not to like? All in all, this album featured the band at the top of their game, and though perhaps you could fault their lyrics as being simplistic and not all that deep, lyrics are really beside the point given the sheer splendor of the band's multi-layered sound. Note: Going Blank Again (1992) was a fine follow-up that contained their greatest song in the epic, hard rocking “Leave Them All Behind,” but inter-band tensions between Bell and Gardener, and a confused lack of direction that culminated with the dreadful Tarantula (1996) proved to be the band's undoing. Still, at least they left their mark, and for awhile there the band seemed destined for lasting greatness, which they achieved, however briefly, with Nowhere. Note #2: The 2001 Ignition edition of the album (U.K. only) also includes four bonus tracks from the similarly superb Today Forever EP (1991): the surging "Unfamiliar," the soaring "Sennen," the resplendent pop of "Beneath," and the slow building, dreamy "Today." This 15-track release is the version of the album to get, though the original 8 (or 11) tracks are enough to ensure this album's status as an underrated classic.

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