There are three albums that are considered definitive of the shoegaze genre; My Bloody Valentine's 'Loveless', Slowdive's 'Souvlaki' and Ride's 'Nowhere'. Although the three albums all sound very different from each other, Ride's stands out. 'Nowhere' combines the noise, feedback and sheer volume of shoegaze and pairs it with traditional pop song structures and hooks; a winning combination. Out of the shoegaze big three, Ride found the most commercial success with 'Nowhere' reaching number 11 on the UK Albums Chart - no mean feat for a shoegaze band, a scene which remained largely underground due to its general inaccessibility and harshness. Ride found the magic formula, bringing the wall of sound that is shoegaze into the mainstream.
'Seagull' kicks off the album, and instantly we are treated to a Beatles-esque bassline, paired with harsh guitar feedback, a prime example of what this album is all about. The guitars are effects-laden and droning, and Lawrence Colbert's powerful drumming propels the track along. The track shows off another of Ride's trademarks: Andy Bell and Mark Gardener's harmonised vocals. Their lush vocal lines weave in and out of each other, adding to the swirling atmosphere of the track.
This continues for a good six minutes before the song builds and climaxes into a noisy freakout. A fantastic album opener, and sums up the overall vibe of the album.The third track, 'In A Different Place', shows the more straightforward, poppy side of the album. The song starts with a lone floor tom, before the main riff comes in, which is reminiscent of 80s jangle pop bands like The Smiths or The Stone Roses. Mark Gardener takes lead vocals on this track, and the melodies are pure pop. There is still an element of the noisier aspects of their sound, with distorted guitars and more aggressive drumming punctuating the verses. A perfect pop track, and one of the most memorable moments of the album.
On the other end of the spectrum, the fifth track 'Dreams Burn Down' is monolithic, beginning with a huge drum intro before launching into a massive wall of distorted sound. This is probably the most traditional shoegaze moment on the album, filled with abrasive guitar tones matched with Gardener's beautiful vocal melodies. Throughout the track there are numerous dissonant, screaming noise-fests, contrasting with the relatively pretty verse sections, further showing the band's 'beauty and the beast' approach to songwriting.'
'Vapour Trail', the closing track is probably the most well-known song on the album and has gone on to be a shoegaze anthem. Gardener and Bell's 12-string Rickenbackers come together in perfect harmony, playing a repetitive, mantra-like chord progression while Colbert's drumming drives the song. Andy Bell takes lead vocals on this track, singing an unforgettable melody that you'll have stuck in your head for a long time. A string section also makes an appearance towards the end of the track, adding depth to the tune.
With 'Nowhere', Ride created a masterpiece. Taking the accessibility of pop and fusing it with the noisy soundscapes of shoegaze resulted in what I believe to be the absolute pinnacle of the genre. Echoes of the album's sound can be heard in albums such as Blur's 'Leisure', which also took catchy melodies and filtered them through reverb and distortion-drenched guitars. Ride later abandoned this sound and pursued a more straightforward rock sound, but what they achieved with 'Nowhere' is how they are best remembered, and will never be forgotten.