Don’t call it a comeback… because it’s the album after the EP after the comeback. Ride was the last of the Big Three of 90’s shoegaze (the other being My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive, if that wasn’t already obvious) to have a comeback album with 2017’s Weather Diaries. The album saw the band mix their signature sound (gorgeous harmonies and jangly guitar parts) with some modern electronic elements. This experimentation arrived at mixed results, but still yielded a handful of solid songs. Their latest album This Is Not A Safe Place finds Ride ditching electronic experiments and running the gamut of all things alt rock instead.
The song “Repetition” is Ride’s biggest artistic statement on the album. With lyrics like “It’s funny, people hate you to change / They want you just to repeat and stay the same”, it’s sort of a “fuck you” to people demanding another Nowhere. This song is great too – a fun blend of 80’s synth pop and psychedelic rock. It comes right after “Future Love”, the most traditionally “Ride” sounding song on the album. This is another awesome song, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the band sequenced the songs this way.
We’re treated to a lot of fantastic guitar tones on this album. The moody “Kill Switch” features some gnarly fuzzed-out guitars and bass, as does opener “R.I.D.E.”. I could do without the weird whisper on the opener reminding me that I’m listening to Ride, but it’s a very solid track otherwise. The band fires up their chorus pedals on “Fifteen Minutes”, with the occasional flare of that awesome fuzz mentioned previously. There’s great interplay in the chorus between the vocal harmonies and guitar lines, which serve a clever contrast to the sarcastic, despondent lead vocals.
The problem with this album is that a lot of these great guitar tones get lost to mediocre songs. The band dials in some great slowcore tones on “Eternal Recurrence”, but the song drags on too much.”Clouds of Saint Marie” sounds like a dream pop blink-182, but that’s not necessarily a terrible thing. Unfortunately, there’s some really cool whammied guitar chords in the pre-chorus that sit just a bit too low in the mix, and the song as a whole falls short of its full potential.
On the other side of things, “Jump Jet” sounds like a U2 song. I mean, better than a good deal of U2 songs, but an average song nonetheless. There’s this awesome, explosive bridge on “End Game”, but it’s otherwise completely forgettable. Luckily, the band does bring things back around on the last two songs. “Shadows Behind the Sun” lays out an intriguing chord progression, while “In This Room” boasts one of the albums strongest choruses. Regardless of it’s more mediocre moments, however, I do feel that this album is a step up from Weather Diaries.
These middle-of-the-road albums are the hardest to rate. I could maybe justify a lower score, but there’s nothing inherently bad about this album, and down-rating for the sake of being edgy is lame. I think my final rating is a safe place for this album (try not to roll your eyes too hard at that one). Ride do a good job here at making an enjoyable record, but it’s not anything earth-shattering. Nor does it need to be. Sure, it would be great if they made more songs like “Seagull” or “Leave Them All Behind”, but you know, I can just go back to those songs any time I want. Ride is past the point where they need to be genre flag bearers or innovators, and it seems like they’ve embraced that. On This Is Not A Safe Place, the band has made it clear that they’re gonna play what they want to play, regardless of what critics say. And with that approach, we get a handful of excellent songs, and the promise that Ride will continue to make great music.
Best Tracks: Repetition, Future Love, Fifteen Minutes, Kill Switch
Weakest Tracks: Eternal Recurrence, Dial Up, End Game
Overall Score: B-