When I was a kid I was introduced to punk by my elder neighbour, I loved everything about it, it’s aggression, anger, politics, energy and vitality, I still do. So I wanted one of my favourite bands of all time to adopt some of this punk ethic – I don’t mean smashing doors down, spraying anarchy A’s on walls punk – I mean making something fresh and vibrant which questions the status quo and strives for something better; both in terms of subject matter, content and delivery. How did they do with Weather Diaries?…
Dropped like an A-Bomb as track 1, this is a true statement of intent – both as defining a new sound and in demonstrating a new found confidence in political commentary – perfect then that it was released to the world on general election day. A ghostly drone comes into focus from the distance, which is then punctuated by simply intoned notes, themselves in turn overlaid with a synth heady buzz (part retro/part millennia into the future), before Ride’s trademarked hypnotic harmonies are joined simultaneously by the crash/thud of Loz’s drums and Steve’s pulsing, rail road train bass. Of course this is then all topped off by THAT riff – an earworm caught like a cold in an instant, nagging at you upon waking for days. Mark’s: ‘…I’ve rolled against the tide’ lyric seems like part brag at having made the right decision (‘I told you so’) and part disbelief at what has unfolded around him, before the joyous ‘A better sense can start again’ refrain which fades to end, hoping for the positive future which must surely ultimately prevail from post-referendum (and now general election) chaos.
Just as the drones fade to grey on Lannoy. Charm Assault jumps in and hijacks the speakers thug like. DIIV like guitar chimes dominate its undertones but an intense drumming beat guides it along effortlessly – and wins through at the middle eight – reminiscent in places of Loz’s skills and power on ‘Black Nite Crash’. When I first heard it at the Brighton Bestival warm up shows it captured me immediately and unveiled a new aggression, and was (and is) the closest that Ride have come to a true punk single. It’s pure brutal beauty, and the inherent anger is palpable, raging against the injustices of a divided country.
All I Want
A rail against May-ite politics and policies. Commencing with a jump start, synth treated vocal and crashing cymbals, this is a far cry from traditional Ride on first listen, perhaps one of the most obvious Alkan influenced recordings here? The krautrock propulsion maybe owes something to its cleverly edited drum take. My favourite lyric is: ‘strange people on the rise, one day they’re gonna come for you’ – invoking both Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller’s warning to those who standby and watch social and political injustice, and simultaneously questioning why we don’t learn from history…’it’s not a pretty picture’. Mark’s lead vocal sounds triumphant, whilst Andy’s faint backing sounds mournful and oddly complimentary (despite its potentially clashing emotional tone). Effects laden interludes give you moments of quiet contemplation before the urgent refrains return. It speeds towards the end, before part imploding, falling apart self destructively at the close.
Home Is A Feeling
The drifts of effect heavy guitar as this starts coupled with the dreamy vocals make it possibly the most obviously ‘shoegaze’ sounding track here. Slowed down My Bloody Valentine beats meets Slowdive. This wouldn’t seem out of place on the Today Forever EP, but the shimmering, stuttering wash of treatment somehow makes it feel fresh and up to date.
At seven minutes the title track is also the longest, starting with an ‘Howard Hughes’ like intro (well the ‘Looking For Me’ demo version of that tune that is). A gorgeous, lamenting Bell vocal, high and clear in the mix sails through the choppy seas. My favourite cut on the album, quite a sad, mournful reflection, an older and wiser Andy asks: ‘I’m going under but where are you?’ before reminiscing: ‘when I was younger it was simple you didn’t have to question everything’. It’s unclear what exactly has changed but it feels like a painful memory (or a moment of realisation) which has been uncovered, explored via years of experience. There are completely explosive, overdriven interludes too punctuating the gentleness, where you can feel the needles pushing the meters to their limits. At the end it feels as though the author has navigated the tempest and is gliding effortlessly onwards to happier times. Pure beauty.
Rocket Silver Symphony
Soaring whooshes of Kosmiche electronica come together to form a peak, before a robotic (Loz?) vocal is coupled with a Kraftwerk like metronome pace and then washed in Who ‘Tommy’ style symphonic choir vocals, finally dropping back down to ride the loco. Expansive and ambitious, when it’s finally expended it fades as quickly and as subtlety as it arrives. Truly uplifting; a perfect NASA soundtrack.
The second shortest track on the album, part proggy (reminding me of Ultrasound), part a lysergic rush. Seriously overdriven bass and heavy drums overlap with surf harmonies and trippy sixties signatures but are delivered at a rate of knots and with a real sense of urgency, only enhanced by its brevity. The name comes from the character Lateral Alice Moore in the David Foster Wallace’s (who is also referenced in the lyrics) 1996 encyclopedic novel ‘Infinite Jest’. The book features themes of substance abuse and recovery, as well as suicide (tragically its author took his own life), so the sense of disassociation that the song impresses upon the listener is pretty clever, an almost otherworldly, out of body experience. The lyrical references to ‘waking up in another town’ also suggest the sense of disassociation experienced by perpetual travelling (or touring). Another favourite for me.
Another summery sounding blast – sun, sea, beaches and kissing all feature in the lyrics. Lazy and relaxed in feeling, soporific and hypnotic almost. Very similar to the band’s earlier Going Blank Again sound. Looped codas revolve around and around in an endless spiral pulling you in, before inevitably fading out like the dying sun of the hottest day. The perfect soundtrack to an open top car on a coastal highway. Another favourite for me (I know…).
Tonal echoes, fed back, with a vocal/chant very low in the mix, soaring thrums, ebb and flows, this one is the most abstract piece on the album and obviously a nod to William Basinski’s Disintegration loops – compositions of fragmented tape loops. The earlier dystopian theme returns a little here as Basinski’s own work coincided with the fall of the World Trade Centre. As avant garde as Ride have got to date.
This song has HUGE themes. It seems to deal with not only the impermanence of relationships, but of life, the universe and everything…the ‘end of the world’ could be taken as a personal expiration, the destruction and loss of the planet and/or the dying of the sun, and even our cosmos…it could be depressing but there is positivity and reassurance in the story’s telling of the inevitability of life (and beyond).
A hubbub of field recorded conversation is hidden by a dripping of sand timer like sound and then an angelic, quavering and breathy Gardener vocal cuts through. A heavily percussive build follows with what sounds like Loz using every piece of a big kit to the hilt. It then breaks down in the middle to a simple keyed piece and a change of vocal direction and delivery. It ends with infinitely ringing echoey guitar and a return to the hidden voices. This and Impermanence work really well together as an end point and could almost be two parts of the same piece.
I never dreamed that Ride would deliver quite as well as they have (though deep down I believed that they could). Weather Diaries draws on the old, whilst also injecting a spike of risk and innovation that is rarely present in bands that have ‘been around the block’ (less so those that have been on an extended hiatus). It is a brave and visionary album, made only better by Erol Alkan’s distillation and encouragement. I am confident that this one will stay the course and only add to Ride’s already ripe musical legacy, and you know, that chokes me to the core, it could have been a disaster but it is a triumph.
I was left in awe when I first heard this album, and I just keep discovering new depths at every turn.
File under ‘classic’…
Review/photo – Mark Taylor
Live Photo – Jon Fischer