I was just some teenager always searching for the latest music to love, when the new decade brought discoveries that would forever influence my record collection. In 1990, I did not have the luxury of the instant gratification known as the Internet. Instead, I relied on music magazines such as Star Hits and B-Sides or MTV’s “120 Minutes” to find the current bands for my discriminating ears.
I recall being absolutely mesmerized the first time I ever heard/saw Ride on “120 Minutes.” Four skinny, scruffy, white English boys looking so free, innocent, and shy, but their sound was ferocious. The dreamy vocals floated like feather on “Like A Daydream,” while the jingle-jangly guitars shredded as the drums exploded like fireworks. This combination of distortion, urgency, and etherealness felt so right for a melancholy girl in an existential state of mind.
As the nineties aged, I discovered many more bands I have come to love, but Ride takes the crown as my favorite discovery of that decade, and they remain as one of my top ten favorite bands of all time. Their debut LP, Nowhere, retained the raw psychedelic energy of their EPs with a newfound sophistication that made this album a classic. Their follow-up, Going Blank Again, suffered no sophomore slump. While the distortion was toned down, the songwriting showed maturity with experiments in unconventional structures. Opening the album with “Leave Them All Behind” — a rock-out, jammer masterpiece clocking over eight minutes and following it up with the “radio-friendly” pop perfection, “Twisterella”, the record still sounds fresh today as I first heard in 1992. And I’m sure the fact that Ride never compromised their artistic integrity for commercial success has something to do with it.
Unfortunately, life is not always kind, and I never had the chance to catch Ride in concert. While several “nineties” bands are reuniting and touring again, it seems highly unlikely that the Oxford quartet will ever jump on the bandwagon. So the best consolation I could get was to have Ride’s frontman, Mark Gardener, come out of the studio, and play few of my favorite songs on the twentieth anniversary of Going Blank Again, with Sky Parade as his backing band.
On the second stop of the tour, Gardener took some time from his busy schedule to fulfill this fan’s dream, before playing at the Star Theater in downtown Portland on June 22nd. I recall an interview on “120 Minutes” when Ride was touring with Lush. Gardener seemed shy and didn’t say too much. But to be fair, it seemed then host, Dave Kendall, was favoring Lush’s vocalist/guitarist Miki Berenyi. Not that I’d blame him… Looking more like a Californian than an Englishman, the tanned quadragenarian couldn’t be more friendly and informative. Having experienced a gamut of interviewee personalities and being shy with propensity to be tongue-tied, I was pleasantly surprised to find the daunting task with one of my all time favorite musician effortless.