Saturday 22 October 2016

Music: Time to renew a ticket to 'Ride'

Published 26/04/2015 | 02:30

Oxford's finest: Ride
Oxford's finest: Ride
Damon Albarn of Blur
The Magic Whip by Blur

In 2011, English music journalist Simon Reynolds published Retromania: Pop Culture's Addiction to Its Own Past. It is proving to be the most prophetic music book of the decade so far, as Reynolds perceptively writes about a selfie generation hooked on Spotify: "Not only has there never before been a society so obsessed with the cultural artefacts of its immediate past, but there has never before been a society that is able to access the immediate past so easily and so copiously."

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On April 5 in Oxford, a four-piece rock band called Ride took the stage in their hometown for their first show in 20 years.

They'll be everywhere this summer and are one of the leading attractions at this year's Electric Picnic.

"Sitting on this news has been torture," joint frontman and guitarist Mark Gardener recently confessed. "It was nice to do it properly and announce it without it being completely leaked on Twitter beforehand. It's great to be back with my brothers, without sounding too Spinal Tap about it."

Ride were signed to Alan McGee's legendary Creation Records label, which blooded some of the most exciting rock bands of the late 80s and 90s.

"With Ride I just showed up every night until they signed," McGee has said. "But usually we'd get them off their nut. They'd have such a good time, they'd think: 'Do we really want to sign to some boring f***er at a major, or some lunatic who will put us in the charts?' Then when you end up taking whatever refreshments are available at 4am in a Jacuzzi you think: 'I made the right decision.'"

After releasing four studio albums, including a ground-breaking debut widely acclaimed to be one the most important guitar records of the 90s, Ride didn't end well.

Tensions rose between the two singers, Andy Bell (who joined Oasis in 2001 and is constantly mistaken for his namesake in Erasure) and the aforementioned Mark Gardener.

"Ride was intense, and by album four, six or seven years into the band, we crashed the car, so to speak," Gardener muses.

Bell has been quick to clarify that any ill feelings between the pair are conclusively parked. "Ride finished acrimoniously," he admits. "But a few months after that, me and Mark patched things up. It didn't take much."

Oasis took over Bell's life for most of the noughties. Initially, he was paid the average wage for a session musician and taking home around £85 a night, even though Oasis were headlining football stadiums.

However, on the subsequent Oasis album, Heathen Chemistry, Bell became a full-time member of the band.

Oasis spectacularly split up in Paris in 2009 after Noel Gallagher walked out of the band following a particularly nasty row with his younger brother. Bell remained in Beady Eye alongside Liam, which essentially became Oasis minus Noel.

"Shoegaze has dated better than Britpop, which has dated horrendously," Gardner has since said about the re-emergence of this sub-genre that's enjoying a brand new lease of life.

"I think shoegaze was always more substance over style, which was why it was hard for the press because all the bands were quite boring.

"We weren't the biggest personalities and egos, which is difficult for the media, I know, but the substance of the music has really stood the test of time."

Graham Coxon from Blur, who is also back on the merry-go-round with this week's album of the week release, The Magic Whip, has also dismissed Britpop as "Austin Powers: bad teeth and horrible suits."

When Beady Eye announced they were calling it a day last year, it left the door to a Ride reunion wide open. I interviewed Andy Bell twice in London in the company of the loud-mouth rock star Liam Gallagher. I enquired at each interview if he had any plans to reform Ride, and Bell answered in the affirmative on both occasions, while reiterating he'd be kept busy with Beady Eye for the time being.

Gallagher teased him about their first album Nowhere, which had just been re-issued. "He's obsessed with that f***ing Ride album," Gallagher exclaimed. "Like it's good and all, but it's not as good as this," referring to Beady Eye's subsequent flop of a debut album Different Gear, Still Speeding. Sorry Liam, but Nowhere is in a league of its own.

Ride briefly reunited in 2001 to record footage for a Channel 4 programme. A few years later, Andy and Mark informally performed some Ride songs in Sweden, where Bell was living at the time.

"Mark was passing through Sweden on an acoustic tour, so I got up and played a whole set with him," Bell recalls.

"I was on a year off from Oasis at that point so we played a set of Ride songs. Grown men were crying."

Expect at least a few more dewy-eyed fans in Stradbally this September.

"My Bloody Valentine handed out earplugs when they played," Bell notes. "We could hand out tissues."

Ride play Electric Picnic, September 4-6.

Listen up: Album of the week

Blur - The Magic Whip


Blur have kissed and made up enough to make their eighth studio album a reality.

In the wake of a solo debut from Damon Albarn last year, The Magic Whip is as eclectic and daring as we've come to expect from the Britpop behemoths' later era work.

It is not all killer, and some tracks veer dangerously towards mere fillers, but Blur do just enough to make this a very solid, if far from spectacular, comeback outing. Noel and Liam Gallagher have reportedly reached a 'gentleman's agreement' to reform Oasis next year, so brace yourself for the Britpop revival.

Key track: 'Thought I was a Spaceman'

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