REVIEW: Ride – This is Not a Safe Place

It’s been 29 years since Ride released their debut album, Nowhere. They were initially part of the shoegaze scene, however their sound has morphed album by album. They released four records in the 90s, and disbanded in 1996. They weren’t seen again until they reunited for a tour in 2014. Erol Alkan produced Ride’s comeback LP, Weather Diaries, and is also responsible for producing their latest album. It’s titled This Is Not A Safe Place, but it seems Ride are in safe hands, at least..?

The opening track, ‘R.I.D.E.’, is three minutes of powerful, industrial scuzziness, and there’s a very brief glimpse of shoegaze. It sounds brilliant, but it’s ruined when the music momentarily stops, so that “ride” can be cheesily whispered. God, it makes me cringe. I think the other passengers on the train must have seen me wince.

I like the sound of the 80s/New Order inspired ‘Repetition’. It’s unfortunate that the vocals don’t compliment the music. Sometimes vocalists just don’t have that ‘half singing / half talking’ voice. It’s interesting that the lyrics are about their time at art school, but I wonder if they’re also taking a dig at those who want the old Ride back when they say, ‘It’s funny, people hate you to change, they want you just to repeat and stay the same’.

Although ‘Kill Switch’ is packed full of those vocals I don’t like, for some reason it’s much more bearable, well, actually enjoyable. I love the aggressive drums at the beginning. ‘Kill Switch’ is dark and has some real attitude. It’s raw and dirty. The band were apparently channelling their inner Stooges on this track, which really comes through.

Many of the tracks on the album have a promising start and then fall at an early hurdle. However, ‘End Game’ bucks this trend. It initially sounds like the demo of a Manchester student band circa 1990. I did wonder whether they’d recruited a depressed teenager to write the lyrics. It would actually be a decent song without the lyrics. A couple of minutes in, there’s a welcome shift, as it becomes heavier and faster, but unfortunately it doesn’t reach the climactic level that the band were probably aiming for.

I remember there was a time, probably around 10 years ago, where I’d go shopping for a new pair of jeans. I’d spot some lovely ones from a distance, and charge over, already picturing how great they’d look. They were the right wash, shade, cut, length. Then as I’d go through the rack to find my size- “oh god”. Horror. A fucking sequin dragon on the arse of the jeans. Why do they have to go and ruin a perfectly good pair of jeans? This Is Not A Safe Place is that pair of jeans. You think it’s going ok, then BAM! A big fuck off sequin dragon hurls a block of cheese at you.

Since their main comeback in 2017, Ride have changed musical direction. They’ve avoided returning back to their shoegaze roots. I don’t like the direction, it’s not my thing, but I’m sure others will enjoy it. Maybe they’re just having a bit of fun. Maybe I shouldn’t take them too seriously. They’re probably reaching a new audience with their sound. There have been so many advances in technology since their first album in 1990, and it seems they’re really making the most of this potential which is now at their fingertips.  I was looking forward to checking out the album, but I’ll admit, I struggled to listen to it. I actually felt resentful that I had to spend my time with it. There are a couple of good tracks, but overall it’s luke-warm and at times just downright cheesy. It’s a real shame and feels as though their legacy has been stained.

Words by Kim Fernley

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