Amoeblog

The Top 10 Shoegaze Bands of All Time, or, The Godlike Genius of Shoegaze

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 20, 2015 06:11pm | Post a Comment
I'm still buzzing from the Ride show at the Warfield. "Cool Your Boots" has been running through my head non-stop for a week (although there was a break, at least in my sleep, when I had a dream which involved listening to Cedric Im Brooks). Since the show I've been listening to a lot of shoegaze (and a little chimp rock -- anyone remember that?).

Long sleeves, stripes, and androgyny -- the alternative was San Diego Sizzler Chic

I've also met a couple of people since getting back from San Francisco with whom the subject of music arose. Two of them were on their way from Coachella to Brokechella and were talking about "soul" (in the sense that Maroon 5 are soul, I suppose) act, Fitz & the Tantrums. No one had heard of Ride or had the haziest notion of what shoegaze means. When I told them that Ride had played at Coachella they looked incredulous. 

I realize that twenty years ago is forever when you're in your twenties but if you'd mentioned Led Zeppelin, The Doors, or psychedelia to a college kid in the 1980s they would've been familiar with them at least as concepts. Maybe even if your favorite pretendie bands are all signed to the world's largest corporate music label you still might have have at least heard of Creation Records. Seriously, they were fine -- but I wouldn't at all be surprised if after I dropped these kids off in the Arts District if they immediately took to Twitter, stating "OMG idk wat is Ride and wat is shoo gays LOL?" 

Whether one is a fan of shoegaze or not, is that it was that last moment in rock's history when something happened that was both significantly different from what had come before but still recognizable rock music. Shoegazers pushed the boundaries of rock with ethereal ambiance and post-psychedelic noise; beyond those boundaries lay Metal Machine Music or Ambient 1: Music for Airports -- which whatever you think them have little to do musically with the rock 'n' roll of Jackie Brenston, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and the like. 

Ride rolls into the Warfield -- and their thirteen most massive tunes

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 13, 2015 10:42am | Post a Comment
I'm currently down in San Francisco (well, Richmond actually) to see Ride play. Ride, for those keeping score, were the best of a crop of bands known way back in the early 1990s as shoegazers. Like most British bands that survived into those dark years of the mid-1990s, when a collective craze for slow motion guitar solos and untucked shirts overcome white Britannia, Ride too went horribly wrong (i.e. Britpop) in the end before calling it a day in 1996. They only released one bad album (and it was awful) but then Andy Bell formed Hurricane #1, a truly horrendous (way) sub-Seahorses audition for Oasis. Bell went on to play in Oasis and then that other Liam Gallagher band who can't have been all bad as they covered World of Twist's "Sons of the Stage." 





This is all a roundabout way of saying that the prospect of a Ride reunion made me, understandably I think, rather nervous. They released a clutch of fantastic EPs, three great albums, and only one steaming, stinker -- but it was their final album, and a direction Bell pursued with his following bands so would he insist that Tarantula haters like myself got it wrong and try to prove his point by subjecting audiences to "The Dawn Patrol" and "Starlight Motel" or worse, "Just Another Illusion"? All of my fears were put to rest when I listened to them play a short set on KCRW's "Morning Becomes Eclectic," which included five songs from their brilliant debut, Nowhere, and its equally classic follow-up, Going Blank Again. They sounded great. I meant to dust off my old Ride T-shirt with the mud stains and holes but perhaps wisely forgot (it's really holey).

Shoegazers were sometimes criticized for hiding their lack of songs behind walls of feedback... but listening to "Morning Becomes Eclectic" for the first time in fifteen years as I waited for Ride to play I was treated to a barrage of forgettable, tuneless, garblers in Native American headdresses singing whoa-oh-oh-y car insurance jingles (or at least that's what it sounded like to me). You know, Coachellacore or the stuff that plays during Spotify ads when sensible users remove their earbuds. Ride, on the other hand, wrote some of the tightest (I'll never use that word again to describe music, I promise) melodies, sang the pretties harmonies, channeled The Byrds, Love, and Buffalo Springfield, and then added a healthy squall of guitar noise that make me wonder why all the "nu-gazers" are so bland and limp (...oh yeah, Slowdive). 
Ride played at Coachella the other night, apparently. They're playing at the Warfield tonight. They're playing in Pomona at the Fox Theater tomorrow. 


*****
Now allow me to get all listicle and give you the Top 13 Ride Songs:
“Vapour Trail” from Nowhere (1990) 


I first heard this on WMNF in 1990 when a DJ played the entire record. I later taped the video onto a VHS cassette when it was played on City Limits (Much Music) and it inspired my brother to go into graphic design.

“Taste”  — form the Fall EP (1990) 

 

Sounds like a poppier My Bloody Valentine, right? A pretty terrible video, though, although Mark's hair inspired me to grow out my bowl. Also, I did a sketch of him four our high school literary journal -- ha!


“All I Can See” — from the Ride EP (1989)

When the Smile compilation came out I played that record so much that it immediately conjures up the harsh winter of my freshman year in the dorm.

“Cool Your Boots” — from Going Blank Again (1992)


Going Blank Again was the first record I bought without having heard anything off of it. I was on a ski trip in Colorado and I didn't even know Ride had a new album out so I had to grab it before I returned to rural Iowa, where I'd be screwed. I was not disappointed. Bonus points for Withnail & I samples.

“Crown of Creation” — from Carnival of Light (1994)


I'd suspected from the beginning that Ride were Byrds fans. Carnival of Light would seem to be pretty strong evidence for that suspicion. This song title comes from a Jefferson Airplane album, the album also included a Creation cover, and a photo of Andy Bell showed him wearing a Buffalo Springfield shirt. Still, 1968 was a much more forward looking year than 1995 would turn out to be.


“Twisterella” — from Going Blank Again



“Only Now" — from Carnival of Light




“1000 Miles” — from Carnival of Light 




“Close My Eyes” — from the Ride EP


Bonus points for mentioning the band's name in the song.


“Dreams Burn Down” — from the Fall EP 



“Leave Them All Behind” — from Going Blank Again



“Like a Daydream” — from the Play EP (1990)


Long-sleeve T-shirts and early hints at Byrds love

“Sennen” -- from Today Forever EP (1991)


It sounds completely like Robert Plant's "I'm in the Mood," which is kind of amazing.

*****

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