RIDE Carnival Of Light (Creation)
Will 1994 go down in rock history as the year self-styled "Greatest Record Label In The World" Creation became music's equivalent of "Jim'll Fix It", granting the wildest wishes (and excesses) of pasty-faced white boys with guitars? After Bobby, Andrew and Robert from Glasgow wrote in asking Alan McGee to fix it for them to become The Rolling Stones and get to remake "Exile on Main St.", this week's program follows how Andy, Steve, Laurence and Mark from Oxford become Led Zeppelin, The Byrds, Pink Floyd, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones (again!).
If only. That's clearly the intention and there's more than enough evidence here to prove it: "Moonlight Medicine" swaggers in a photocopied "Kashmir" stylee, "I Don't Know Where It Comes From" is a low-rent "You Can't Always Get What You Want", with the London Bach Choir replaced with the presumably less expensive Christchurch Cathedral School Choir, "Birdman" sounds like an outtake from Pink Floyd's "Obscured By Clouds", "How Does It Feel To Feel?" sounds like The Creation's song of the same name, chiefly because it is, and everything else sounds like The Byrds. Even the title is second hand, originally belonging to a sound-effects tape constructed by Paul McCartney for the sort of "happening" event that was popular when he was, i.e. 1967.
Warehouse-loads of printer cartridges could be wasted in the discussion on the morality of "record-collection rock" such as this, but in all honestly it boils down to whether you've got enough wit and panache to get away with it: Teenage Fanclub and The Boo Radleys, for example, undoubtedly can, forging superb music into the bargain, and so do Saint Etienne when they can be bothered to try; in contrast, Primal Scream and Ride treat the exercise as just that: there's no humour or spontaneity - it becomes less a record and more an autopsy.
Not that "Carnival Of Light" is entirely beyond redemption: "1000 Miles" is the best Byrds imitation since Tom Petty's "Feel A Whole Lot Better" (which was a bit of a cheat since it was a Byrds song anyway), "Crown of Creation" (been listening to any Jefferson Airplane recently, boys?) contains the year's best chorus ("You are the crown of creation/I'm getting off at your station/I wanna be your relation"), and despite being possibly the most transparent, blatant, so-obvious-it's-got-to-be-a-merrie-jest slice of plagiarism in the history of recorded music, "I Don't Know Where It Comes From" is excellent, probably the best track here. Shame it's not there's, even though the credits seem to think it is. In the Big Names/Cred/Ego stakes they score again: a rather crinkly looking Jon Lord turns up to do nasty things to an innocent Hammond organ, the Kick Horns tootle and blow where required (they've played on Stones albums, come to think of it - what a coincidence), a Beach Boys manager contributes lyrics, John Leckie and George Drakoulias produce etc. etc. On paper, this album's loaded. But on listening, it's nowhere near "going beyond stereo", as the band were rather portentously claiming it would be in interviews this time last year, and certainly a step back from its predecessor "Going Blank Again", where all that they stole were Pete Townshend's sequencer patterns. Still, anyone willing to bet that this is what the next Stone Roses album sounds like?
RIDE Tarantula (Creation)
Greil Marcus once said of Rod Stewart, "Rarely has anyone betrayed his talent so completely". Unfortunately the same accusation could be levelled at Ride. After defining the art of shoegazing through several thrilling effects-pedal riddled EPs and an uneven debut album, they showed glimpses of their full potential, of going beyond stereo, on 1992s still vastly underrated "Going Blank Again", an album whose best bits still scrape away at the roof of the expectations of what you can do with drums and wires. "Carnival Of Light" saw them regressing into an awful parody of late-60s Stones and Floyd, and now we have the post-split release (available for one week only! Get em while theyre hot...and presumably before anyone reads a review of it...) of their final album, with its telling front cover graphic of a hand brandishing a gun (like, try pointing it at your feet).
The recorded evidence shows that they were changing and evolving right to the end. "Tarantula" is full of fuzzed up guitars, of the like we havent encountered since their distinctly low-fi debut EP. Andy Bell contributes lots of telling, and sometimes touching, songs that really tell you all youd ever want to know about the background to the breakup: the relentless touring schedules that kept him from his Swedish wife Idha (in "Sunshine/Nowhere To Run") and the fractured friendships within the band ("Castle On the Hill") are all exposed, as well as demonstrating a Gallaghers ingenuity for tune theft ("Burnin" is the Stone Roses "Love Spreads") and a lyrical facility little removed from the old days when they used to rhyme high, sky and fly with some regularity (e.g. "As the day breaks over our caravan/And you lie beside me like a lamb"). "Tarantula" is certainly no worse than "Carnival Of Light", certainly less of a disappointment, but those of us who might be looking for the sort of creative sparks that often precede a bands dissolution are probably searching in vain.
RIDE OX4_ The Best Of Ride (Ignition)
This takes me way way way back. I would have been in my second year of A-levels at the time, and there was a common-room buzz about some new eight-minute single that a friend described as "pure atmosphere". That single was called "Leave Them All Behind", the product of a band named Ride, and in those only-slightly post-"Screamadelica" days the fact that it was released by the terminally hip Creation label just about sealed the deal. The album that followed it, "Going Blank Again", turned out to be a near-perfect odyssey into the heart of white noise darkness and ambient experimentation. The weighty press release and biographies that accompanied my copy of "OX4_ The Best Of Ride" (a pack which helpfully includes a list of every gig played during their seven years on the road) keeps returning to the same March 1992 NME quote which perfectly epitomised the hysteria Ride were generating at the time: "Right now Ride are the only band that matters".
Of course, the geography of the rarely-charting plains of indie rock has changed immeasurably over the past decade, territory blown apart by one album, "Definitely Maybe". Gallagher money legitimised Creation as an opportunistic enterprise equivalent to Apple in the late 1960s, with contracts seemingly being handed out freely to anybody who could demonstrate a) that they were distantly related to somebody already on the payroll or b) the presence of a few Big Star albums on their record shelves. And because the circle remains unbroken, it's worth pointing out that Ride's guitarist, Andy Bell, now plays bass in a band called Oasis.
So maybe it's worth saying something about the music on "OX4_", a compilation, hand-picked by the band, that samples all their singles and a selection of relevant album tracks. And that music, it has to be admitted, is almost universally brilliant. It might have taken them six years to go full circle from the scuzzed-up psychedelic fuzzbomb of their "Chelsea Girl" debut to their swansong single "Black Nite Crash", essentially a harder, cleaner version of the same song, but in between you'll find a ballet of pattern, texture and effects pedal madness arguably untouched outside the works of fellow Creation mavericks My Bloody Valentine. Skip to "Vapour Trail", the dying embers of their debut album "Nowhere", and hear the string quartet riffing their way out of the surf of feedback and distortion that constitutes the song's climax, a shivery, gorgeous moment. And then there's the aforementioned "Leave Them All Behind", which aims itself into outer space from a launchpad of "Who's Next"-esque VCS3 sequencer patterns. "OX4" appears in a truncated form compared to the version that closed their seminal second album "Going Blank Again" (why? There's still over ten minutes of blank space on the CD that could have been usefully filled) but it does little to sap its glowing-hearth-homecoming power. Even the excerpts from the fag-end of Ride's career, when they seemed to lean a little too heavily on the memories of their heroes (for example the seven-minute remake of the entirety of Pink Floyd's "Obscured By Clouds" album that is "Birdman", or the blatant Stones rip-off "I Don't Know Where It Comes From", something of a popular trend at Creation during 1994) arrive more freshly-scrubbed than memory serves.
And that's the rub: what this artfully compressed cabal of career highlights, perhaps rightly, doesn't capture is how frustrating Ride could frequently be, the seemingly endless waiting periods broken by the arrival of substandard albums, the generic shoegazing template that much of their early material adhered to, the way that their excellence seemed to spawn a constant stream of witless tenth-rate copyists, from Chapterhouse then down to poor old My Vitriol now. "OX4" doesn't retell the Ride story the way I remember it playing at the time (cue the old adage about nostalgia not being what it used to be), as if in its efforts to be a better album it's guilty of some kind of fraudulent dishonesty. Nevertheless, if you weren't on the trip at the time, or even if you were and your memory is a little fuzzy, "OX4_ The Best Of Ride" is exactly what it says on the tin, which makes it a near flawless disc.RIDE Waves (Ignition)
"Waves" neatly anthologises Ride's Radio 1 work, collating the five sessions the band recorded for John Peel and Marks Goodier and Radcliffe between 1990 and 1994. There's something attractively cyclical about this release: as Andy Bell's refreshingly candid booklet notes remark, "During my school years I spent most evenings listening to Janice Long and John Peel's shows. These programmes were the main way of hearing bands such as The Jesus And Mary Chain, The Fall, New Order, Dinosaur Jr, House Of Love, The Stone Roses, Loop and My Bloody Valentine for the first time. Anyone who's heard Ride's music will know the influence these bands had on us." In celebrating the whole direction/reaction/creation pop music process in this way, "Waves" more than justifies its existence.
Musically, the versions captured here are often endearingly ramshackle compared to the effects pedal sheen of their studio equivalents. The playlist might seem slightly skewed: no "Chelsea Girl", for example, apparently because John Peel hadn't been overcome by excitement on hearing the song's source EP, the lengthy complexities that formed the band's finest moments (much of the "Going Blank Again" album, for my money) are also absent, presumably because they were too long and complex to recreate with restricted time and financial resources, and the preponderance of "Carnival Of Light" material that weighs down the latter half of the CD is presumably a function of that album's elephantine gestation period.
A woozy "Dreams Burn Down" apparently prompted Mr Peel to wax elegiac about cannons, whilst Pale Saints and Dead Can Dance covers - the latter's "Severance" seeming even more like a Ride song than some Ride songs I could name - lend a distinctly early 90s indie patina to proceedings. The strange foot-stomping effects on "Decay" betray more signs of cost-cutting, and "Time Of Her Time", great song though it is, sounds rather hesitant here, despite frantic drum fills and some plunging harmonies. The cod Floyd of "Birdman" is still as unlovely and overblown as "Walk On Water" and "Crown Of Creation" remain soppy and sweet, although the latter admittedly have all the rock 'n' roll abandon of a Freddie And The Dreamers box set . Rescued b-side "Let's Get Lost" compensates somewhat, being a pummelling update of mid-60s Who, a band whose many distinct phases have always exerted a shadowy influence over Ride's music. "Waves" closes with "I Don't Know Where It Comes From", to all intents and purposes a note-for-note homage to The Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want", but here somewhat meaner and leaner, divested of its choral arrangement. The rough "I Am The Resurrection"-style tumble at the close suggests that these boys could have been almost as big as The Stone Roses, had the interpersonal rot not already set in. And savour a slim moment of irony at rehearing the lines "Turned on the radio tonight/And I was overwhelmed with shite" in this current context.