Ahead of the 20th anniversary of My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless this November, the other pillar of the shoegaze movement quietly celebrated its 20th birthday last October: Nowhere, the debut of Oxford band Ride, which holds “consensus as the second-best record of the shoegaze era,” according to AllMusic. Loveless presumably takes top honors, but MBV’s obsessively engineered epic differs markedly from the relatively stripped-down Nowhere, which the band mostly recorded live with producer Marc Waterman. Twenty years later, Loveless gets most of the attention, but the new double-disc anniversary edition of Nowhere reinforces its own regal status.
The reissue features the remastered U.S. version of Nowhere with four additional songs from the Today Forever EP, along with a second disc of a previously unreleased live set recorded in April 1991 at the Roxy in Los Angeles (mixed by Alan Moulder, who mixed the original Nowhere after Waterman had a breakdown). It also features a 40-page booklet of photos with an enthusiastic essay by critic Jim DeRogatis, who calls the album “a musical tour de force in which every element seemed perfectly conceived and to be working in blissful harmony.”
Listening to Nowhere, it’s hard to disagree. For an album renowned for its brooding intensity, it has its share of poppy moments. The chiming guitars and vocal harmonies of “Kaleidoscope” wouldn’t have sounded out of place a year later on Blur’s debut. “Beneath,” one of the bonus tracks from Today Forever, is similarly sunny. Nowhere’s highpoint remains “Vapour Trail,” a contemplative pop song that closes with a nearly two-minute string-laden instrumental coda that segues into the bright, jangly guitars of “Taste.” “Dreams Burn Down” balances the lilting with the ferocious, its slowly paced verses giving way to intense choruses of squealing guitars, which carry over into the 4/4 stomp of “Decay” on the next track. It all wraps up with the nearly six-minute title track.
The live disc is a worthy addition, a well-recorded show in front of a crowd so enthusiastic that its continual cheering almost sounds fake. (After the rapturous applause following “Vapour Trail,” either Andy Bell or Mark Gardener says “We thought people were mellow in California.”) In the liner notes, DeRogatis mentions being stunned by the band’s “ferocious power onstage,” which hits particularly hard during the climactic end of “Seagull.” The band hardly acknowledges the crowd, focusing on blowing through a set that covers most of Nowhere and the band’s many EPs, including Today Forever (“Unfamiliar”), Ride (“Chelsea Girl,” “Drive Blind”), and Play (“Like A Daydream,” “Perfect Time”).
Aside from a TV reunion in 2001, the members of Ride have quietly moved on with their lives without drawing too much attention to their old band, and perhaps consequently, Ride has become more of a cult act compared to the huge crowds that greeted My Bloody Valentine’s reunion tour. Here’s hoping Nowhere’s reissue reminds the world that another band got there first and deserves equal adoration.