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Old 07-05-2009, 12:36 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Ride - Smile (1990)

  1. Chelsea Girl
  2. Drive Blind
  3. All I Can See
  4. Close My Eyes
  5. Like a Daydream
  6. Silver
  7. Furthest Sense
  8. Perfect Time

This album reminds me of the scene in Back to the Future in which Marvin Berry calls his cousin, Chuck, and holds the phone up to transmit the sound of Marty McFly playing “Johnny Be Good”. That’s only because I first heard Smile in exactly the same way. A friend called me, told me to listen to this music he just got, and played “Close My Eyes” through the phone. In BTTF the phone method seemed like an ingenious use of technology but in 1990 it seemed quite primitive and, in fact, I really couldn’t hear anything but cymbal crashes and feedback tones. That didn’t stop me from cherishing Smile and it hasn’t left my side since.

Smile is an 8-song EP that combines the material on two previously released 4-song EPs, Ride and Play, which were also released in 1990. I won’t go on about how this album is an important pieces of shoegaze history etc., etc., because I still hold on to the shimmering idea that this was simply good, enlightened pop music with which, once again, the Brits put their US counterparts to shame.

It’s clear from the start that Ride knew how to make pop music out of distortion and feedback better than anybody that had come before. “Chelsea Girl” has that garage-rock sound of distorted guitars being recorded from inside a metal trash can. The vocals are high in the mix and that’s where a lot of the melody is found. Frenetic beats sound at first like they may be for dancing but that idea goes away quickly – they are for head nodding with closed eyes. That description might conjure images of a 60s psych-rock throwback but it’s not. This is something new.

“Drive Blind” and “Close My Eyes” are the two songs that I would have considered ‘the singles’ if I was a promoter. They are both examples of how this music works; you bury a catchy song underneath noise. I can’t think of a better example of that simple concept than the combo of these two songs. “All I Can See” has some goth flair like a sad bass line and guitars that chime more than riff. The moaned chorus (goes something like “Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-ah-oh”) seems like it’s there to prove that Ride are not concerned about providing your entertainment.

The four songs that comprise the second half of Smile don’t feel as monumental simply because they mostly echo what Ride did in the previous four. Of course, the previous ones are some of my favorite songs ever so I don’t mind four more at all. This album has not worn on me in almost twenty years. Maybe that’s because, like the knowledge bestowed upon Chuck Berry when he first heard Michael J. Fox play rock guitar, Smile made me feel like I was hearing noisy pop music for the first time – and it has never felt any less important or enjoyable.

Smile is a personal 10/10 but this won’t be a proper critical review without at least a bashful mention of Smile’s place in shoegaze history. While some of the ferocity of Smile is nowhere to be found elsewhere, Ride took their concept a little bit higher and deeper on their masterpiece, Nowhere. Still, I could have died and gone to shoegaze heaven simply on the merits of Smile.

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Old 07-05-2009, 02:55 PM   #2 (permalink)
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"Vapour Trail" is a beautiful song but I've never listened to any other Ride. Judging from this review it seems like the way to do it would be to go for this combined EP and then for Nowhere.
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Old 07-05-2009, 07:29 PM   #3 (permalink)
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There's no wrong way to listen to early Ride. My only advice is to listen to all of Smile and Nowhere before anything else.
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Old 07-06-2009, 07:10 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Drive Blind is such a brilliant tune. Great review.

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Old 07-07-2009, 06:15 PM   #5 (permalink)
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awesome couple of EPs ... Nowhere next is the pinnacle but this is almost as good.

Ride were awesome.
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Old 07-08-2009, 02:22 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Old 07-08-2009, 06:51 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Now there's an original name for an album!
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