Nostalgia’s a powerful thing for propping up a bank balance; as long as that’s the case, bands are always going to reform.
With that in mind, it was unsurprising when shoegaze legends Ride announced they were joining other shoegaze legends My Bloody Valentine, and more recently Slowdive, in reforming for a string of festivals and then an inevitable comeback album. What was surprising however, was this year’s announcement that they’d be following said comeback album up with another.
Their second album since their reunion, and their sixth overall, This Is Not A Safe Place, is an interesting record. Interesting for the fact that, given the spate of recent band reunions, not many make it to their second, second album.
This, arguably, could be viewed as the answer to the inevitable question that dogs every band’s reunion: Is it for the art, or is it for the money? Fortunately for Ride, it seems for the them, the answer is the former. Unfortunately, however, while their intentions might be genuine, the record itself leaves plenty to be desired.
While not in itself a bad album, This Is Not A Safe Place feels like it does little to break the mould, despite its varied aesthetics. In fact, such aesthetics are what brings the album down. Taken on their own, tracks such as "Repetition" or "Clouds of Saint Marie" are perfectly acceptable, yet the running order of the album gives it a somewhat erratic feel, regularly stymying any sense of flow before it’s really picked up.
This is an issue obvious from the outset. Opening number "R.I.D.E" is an instrumental and atmospheric starting point; its ominous soundscape providing an ever-mounting sense of discontent and claustrophobia. Why then, is it followed by first single "Future Love"? A highlight of the record for sure, but one that’s open, and airy. Breezy guitars jangle behind a deliciously ephemeral vocal delivery. Had these two tracks been paired later in the album, it might have provided a moment of respite. So early however, and any atmosphere built dissipates instantly.
It’s a shame, as there are moments where the record really shines, "Eternal Recurrence" for instance, comes at the records halfway point. An expansive and loping affair, it elevates the album completely.
For the most part however, …Safe Place feels just that. Like Ride playing it safe. Of course, for those that grew up with the band that they would even release a second post reunion record is probably enough. For those that have joined the party late however, it does nothing we haven’t heard before. And unfortunately, those moments where the album soars instead of stalls, come too infrequently to leave any lasting impression.