Album Reviews

Album Review: Ride - This Is Not A Safe Place (Wichita Recordings/PIAS)

Simon William Todd

This Is Not A Safe Place, Ride’s sophomore release since their get-back-together in 2017, is sinewed with dirty-electro newness, writhing around beautiful, trustworthy walls of lush guitar and pacific-highway harmonies.

Time has not been kind to British bands of the early 90s. Potted critical reflections of the time get all-engulfed by American grunge, as it provides a convenient springboard back across the Pond to set off what became the defiant, beery, cartoonish jingoism of Britpop.

But look again at the posters on the kids’ walls in 1990 and you see the potential of an uncrested wave that adorned the cover of Ride’s first album, Nowhere, long before the careering greyhounds or blokes passing each other down Berwick Street got the Blu-Tack treatment.

Yes, Ride are an era-defining band. But in the quagmire of the rest of the nineties, when the trajectory of a rock band had taken its typical nose-dive [including, in one member of Ride’s instance, joining Oasis, when everyone seriously ought to have been leaving Oasis] they are not as lauded by the Vox populi as well they should be.

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Ride by Julian Hayr

While some of their contemporaries are now trawling around toilety festivals, churning out their tired hits along with a novelty reunion single, Ride - along with fellow indie right offs, Suede - have weathered the storm and taken to releasing quality guitar-noise to rival that of their seminal works.

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With its swinging acoustic beat and jangly guitar melody, it’s difficult not to skip along. Atop that, it’s got hallmark Ride harmonies, which float out of my speakers like glowing grains of smooth white sand in a summer sunset...

First track, the instrumental manifesto, R.I.D.E, whisperingly announces that the whole family’s here: Andy Bell and Mark Gardener on guitars, harmonies and writing, Steve Queralt on bass and Loz Colbert on drums; then there’s electro-clash DJ Erol Alkan, whose duties as producer add swirling cut off on synths and guitars and, more ‘doof-doof’ bass drums. In fact, there are some tracks here – Repetition for one – that sound like Erol Alkan remixes in themselves – exciting! Also at the party is veteran mixer of Ride’s first album, Alan Moulder.

Lead single Future Love is boy-meets-girl breezy-indie pop. With its swinging acoustic beat and jangly guitar melody, it’s difficult not to skip along. Atop that, it’s got hallmark Ride harmonies, which float out of my speakers like glowing grains of smooth white sand in a summer sunset.


The artwork for This Is Not A Safe Place, replaces that yet-to-break wave from Nowhere with a dark whirlpool of something sinking, which is where we get to with Kill Switch. Within echoes of the Roses, I am the Resurrection drums and sinister one-note, warbling guitar drone, there’s the threatening whisper, “I wanna kill your sound … hit the kill switch”.

A euphoric indie-guitar bathe starts Clouds of Saint Marie and it’s nothing but grin-inducing. The track continues with anthemic “nar-nar-nars”. As I walk around downtown Auckland in the rain, this track, like its backing vocals delicately sing, “reigns over me”, a warm, golden sonic antidote to the grime and incessant grunting and screeching that I hear when I take off my headphones.

Eternal Recurrence takes the warm drone guitars and hypnotic singing firmly into shoegazing territory; a nonsense, illogical tag if you ask me but one that Ride are perhaps most associated with. But whatever it is, they do it so well.

Jump Jet ups the New-Order-sound-palette ante, with a singalong in the chorus that makes the refrain “life on the outside” seem fantastic. Perhaps the fruitful relationship that started on Future Love draws to an aggressive close on End Game. Spoke-sung verses [like when Chris Lowe takes over on Pet Shop Boys’ b-sides] clash with silky, yet powerful feedback guitars and drums during the reflective chorus – “what went wrong / what is wrong with you?”

Shadows Behind the Sun has the simplicity and space, as well as the dark lyrical content, of the best indie ballads, and closer In This Room has the profuse meandering guitar ending that’s exactly what you want from Ride.

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“And no one cares if raving and drowning do look the same”, goes the refrain. Turned up loud, This Is Not A Safe Place will sometimes get you somewhere close to raving, but as for drowning, no – we’re still riding the crest of that wave.

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Ride by Ariel Martini

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See Ride when they perform at the Powerstation in Auckland, NZ on 29 August. Tickets from SBM Presents

Click here to stream or buy
Released: 16 Aug 2019

Written By: Simon William Todd After loitering on the periphery of the London indie scene in the 1990s, Simon hot-footed it to Aotearoa where he loves his family, English language teaching and writing swan songs. He is a keen follower of Tāmaki’s maunga, enjoying rough and smooth basalt alike. A gig and album reviewer and now radio DJ as well, Simon champions the seedier side of electronic pop and indie rock.