Talking about reunited bands who’ve been away for a while usually ends up as a series of dead ends around the reasons why, as opposed to the music they’re actually making.
In the case of Ride things are slightly different (not that their reformation didn’t involve enough buried hatchets to open a small DIY store), due mainly to them once being at the forefront of a shoegaze movement which has undergone a surprising renaissance in the last decade.
This brings about an obvious dilemma: when hundreds of kids from around the world are creating faithful reproductions of the stuff you began making 30 years ago, how do you react? The correct answer is not to give a damn and, following 2017’s Weather Diaries which at times felt like it’d been sequenced by a BBC 6Music focus group, the Oxford foursome have made the record they wanted to make.
Changes are at a premium, with Erol Alkan again on production duties. Whilst parts of last year’s Tomorrow’s Shore EP hinted at a more electronic direction, only the bombastic, sample driven opener R.I.D.E follows up on the promise, while Future Love swings the pendulum back towards the jangling, diaphanous indie pop which briefly made them household names.
It’s a song which singer Andy Bell has admitted was a conscious move away from the rest of the record’s more oppressive themes: the overloaded, slow dance of Eternal Recurrence came to him after watching coverage of the Bataclan massacre, while Repetition and Fifteen Minutes are salted with the musical remains of Joy Division and late period Sonic Youth respectively.
These are not the steps of a band lacking self-belief. Songwriters Bell and Mark Gardener fall back to the patented formula at times (the mellifluous Clouds Of Saint Marie, Shadows Behind The Sun’s pretty sadness) but in contrast there’s a definitive sense of menace on Kill Switch as the riffs are allowed to escape and bully like a power cable brought down in a night storm. This wilful re-imagining of the ego continues to the end as the duo stretch less is more into more is more on the eight-minute closer In This Room, its extended wash out a maze of chilly, irradiated atmospheres.
By that point though, the sense of relief is almost touchable, the baggage the quartet had been carrying since their reunion no longer any kind of burden. The fresh terms they’ve set allow for new songs to enter an old canon; the words to Jump Jet are loosely about being cocooned by jobs until there’s nothing left to breathe but work whilst it punctures through gloriously, where End Game nods to both Mogwai and The Cure electrically, an assemblage of chants that tumble like a nursery rhyme gone into mesmeric overdrive.
There is a tendency when writing about reformed bands to suspend the notion of adulthood, wanting them to be preserved like hunting trophies mounted on a wall. On This Is Not A Safe Place people trapped in the mess in between have their stories told: Ride have finally escaped the gravity of their past to find a brave new world which is ready to be made.