When a band takes a long hiatus — which quite often is code for “we broke up, but we’re unbroken up now” — fans have every right to believe that the result of the reunion is going to be weak. The original unity that formulates a debut, and the subsequent inner tensions that either drive a group to greater heights or rip them apart generally do not add fire to reunion efforts. Frequently, just being together at all is seen as enough. The music that’s generated reflects that compromise.
Twenty-one years later and Ride returns with Weather Diaries, the long, very long awaited follow-up to Tarantula. How did they do? In short, if it required two decades and change to make this album, the time away was well spent. Forget the classifications that are bound to be thrown up like BritPop or shoegaze. They’re just distractions. Ride has produced a terrific pop album, it’s just that this particular pop is more intense than you are used to.
From the opening moments of the first track, “Lannoy Point,” one is thrown off guard while expecting a massive sonic wave of guitars but getting instead a snappy, uptempo rock song (don’t worry, we’ll get there). Even though the track features a subtle burble of electronics, it is carried through by an insistent, jangly guitar line, giving a nod to the band’s formative years in the very early nineties. Let’s be clear: they’ve recorded rock songs like this before, so it should not come as a huge shock. It is, however, not what you expect the comeback album to kick off with. Therein lies one of the key elements of the record. A great deal of care has been taken with regard to song sequencing.
That care is reflected with second track “Charm Assault,” which certainly sounds like it graduated in the same class as Blur, Oasis, and Pulp, and no one could possibly mind this. It’s a “windows down, volume up” kind of song with terrific vocal harmonies. The pop feel goes from strength to strength with “All I Want” but, in the background, you can hear that guitar wave swelling. You know something is coming.
It arrives in full with the hypnotic, almost meditative “Home Is A Feeling” and the standout title track. “Weather Diaries” starts out perfectly restrained, but the back half of the tune highlights the wall of guitar you were counting on, transformed by varying degrees of comb filtering. At turns, the sonic blast envelopes you, and then it pulls far away from you. Audio engineers work long and hard to avoid such distortion that would otherwise mar their recordings. Here, such tricks are used like a hook, and it absolutely works. You will not forget “Weather Diaries” once you’ve heard it.
Later on, the track “Cali” identifies itself as an instant classic. Ride has used their unique skillset and made…a beach song, but it is not for laughs and not a lark. Sundrenched and sunburnt, “Cali” is electric candy for the ear, and in a fairer marketplace could have been the Summer Jam of 2017.
Living with the album Weather Diaries for a few weeks more might temper my opinion of the collection, but as it currently stands, this energetic, ecstatic, and fully immersive album stands to be one of the best in Ride’s catalog — and possibly THE best overall. It is a symbol of more than a comeback, but of actually advancing from where you were.