So, after a week of marking and funerals and sibling birthdays, we have a long weekend ahead of us. As it's raining, I'm going to Manchester where at least that's normal. I'm off to see Ride, one of the first bands I really fell for (see also Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, Tindersticks, Elastica and REM).
Being deprived of music until I got to university in 1993, I caught the tail-end of shoe gazing, just as Britpop killed off all the genuine indie bands. Britpop added ambition, cocaine, Union flags, football laddishness and fun. Not all of these things were conducive to good music, though looking at my enormous collection of coloured vinyl 7" singles, I clearly wasn't a very discerning listener. I just bought everything NME told me to, and passively accepted whatever the staff of Cob Records foisted on me (unsaleable stuff by their bands mostly). They'd openly mock what I asked to buy, and they were largely right. Nobody needs more than one Cecil or Northern Uproar single.
Not that I'd deny my youthful taste in music. The point of being young is that however derivative a band's sound is, it's new to the young. Once I'd bought all the new bands' music I could, I found the albums they'd been listening to. Without the (literally) thousands of Gomez and Helen Love and Starsailor singles I bought, I'd never have found My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, This Mortal Coil, Cocteau Twins, Mazzy Star, Stereolab, Velvet Underground, Patti Smith, PJ Harvey, Joni Mitchell, Galaxie 500, Low, Datblygu, Tystion, Fflaps, Keith Jarrett, Kate Bush, Scott Walker, Steve Reich, Field Mice, Huggy Bear, Catchers, David Wrench, Bikini Kill and all the others (all links to favourite songs).
So, Ride. Good hair. Introspection. Enigmatic artwork and designs. Mumbling. Softness followed by jarring LOUDNESS. Britpop wiped them out for not being ambitious enough but they seemed fairly big and outgoing to me.* I also liked that wave of one-word bands: Pulp, Salad, Ride, Blur, Lush, Verve and so on. My favourite Ride album is Nowhere: here's 'Vapour Trail'.
I also love this melancholic American cover version:
I've also had a soft spot for 'Twisterella', 'Leave Them All Behind' and 'Chrome Waves' from Going Blank Again.
All their albums have a place in my heart, but Carnival of Light is special - the sound of a band with the vision and cash for a sprawling, cosmic piece of work. Once you've got a children's choir on board, you're off and away:
Finally there's the song and album that broke them up. 'Black Nite Crash' is a riffing monster. I love it.
I think what was lost with Britpop was a sense that the music itself was important. So many Britpop bands (and almost all the ones that followed) seem happy to be the soundtrack to a football goals highlights package or adverts. The British indie scene was often smug, precious and introverted, but there was a commitment to a culture that went beyond commodity entertainment. Yes, Ride had a prog element, but however imperfectly, they made art rather than stuff that eventually got them a judge's seat on Britain's Got Talent.
So anyway - off to Manchester for a loud night's shoegazing. Enjoy your bank-holiday weekend.
*also the drugs. I read a very amusing interview with them in which the singer was obsessed with whether the tongues of his trainers could be seen peeking out from his trousers. In retrospect, it seems likely he'd refreshed himself over-liberally.