Sometimes stories do have happy endings. When Ride split acrimoniously in 1996, leaving behind one last album (Tarantula) that suffered greatly from the strains that were ripping apart the group during its recording, many assumed that the band was done. Even after the tensions had cooled, the band themselves said for years that a reunion would never happen. Then, in late 2014, word came that the band were reforming for a series of dates in North America and Europe in 2015, including stops at both Coachella and Primavera Sound. Reviews were positive and often glowing, fans were excited, and the band appeared to once again enjoy working together. After it was done, many were left wondering what, if anything, was next. Would it all come down to just a brief nostalgia run, or was there new life in it?
The answer to that question came early this year, when the band released “Charm Assault,” their first single in over a decade. This was followed only a day after by a second single, “Home Is a Feeling,” and then a month later by the announcement of their fifth album, Weather Diaries. The album came out in June to wide critical acclaim, and shows the band back at the top of their game. Importantly, rather than trying to relive old glories with a carbon copy of the formulas that made them so successful on 1990’s Nowhere and 1992’s Going Blank Again, the album takes the strengths of those albums along with what the band members have learned over their various post-breakup careers of the past decade, and forges it all together to make something new. The result is quite possibly the strongest record the band has made yet.
Fortunately, the fan excitement that came with the first reunion tour wasn’t short lived, and when the band came to Philadelphia to play at the Theatre of Living Arts on their recent North American tour for the album, they played to a packed house (their show at Sixth and I in DC the next night was similarly full). They opened the set with “Lannoy Point,” the opening track off of the new record, and, almost in defiance of anyone who might have come purely for the nostalgia, they drew nearly half of the set from the album. But songs like “Charm Assault,” “Cali,” “Lateral Alice,” and the title track are so strong that no one in the audience seemed to mind. And those looking for older material got their fill with “Seagull” and “Vapour Trail” from Nowhere, “OX4” and “Twisterella” from Going Blank Again, and “Unfamiliar” and “Drive Blind” from the band’s early EPs. The band returned for two encores, playing “White Sands” from the new album, “Leave Them All Behind” from Going Blank Again, and two more EP tracks, “Dreams Burn Down” and “Chelsea Girl.”
Now that Ride has totally crossed over from being simply another nostalgic reunion act to being a full-fledged, actively recording interest again, this is hopefully only the beginning. Their live performance shows a group that has remembered why they worked so well together to begin with, has learned from their past mistakes and put their differences behind them, and, possibly most importantly, appears to be having fun again. The band is set to return to the US for west coast dates in the fall, but they closed their show with a promise that they would be back. We can only hope that it’s for many more times to come.
To open their shows on the tour, Ride brought along one of a new generation of shoegaze bands, Froth from Los Angeles. The group played tracks from their latest full-length release, Outside (briefly). Clearly influenced by Ride and other bands in the genre, but already developing a distinctive sound of their own, the group played a promising set. For shoegaze fans, they will be a band to watch.