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Album Review

A pairing of Ride's first two EPs, Smile is a batch of eight muddy, shambling wrecks that run dangerously close to obscuring great pop songs. In fact, much of Smile makes My Bloody Valentine's blurry Isn't Anything sound as polished as a Steely Dan record. What makes the tunes remarkable is the spirit of the band, along with a complementary mix. The band probably knew exactly what they were doing, but wanted to sound clueless. It's the sound of four art students losing themselves in their record collections, wanting to sound naïve and fresh but well-studied. Mark Gardener sounds like he couldn't sing to save his life on "Chelsea Girl," but it's no matter. The relentless rush of Loz Colbert's drums and distorted guitars of Gardener and Andy Bell carry the song, topped off by a nifty wah-wah climax. Though the mid-tempo, chugging "Drive Blind" could be taken literally, it could double as a metaphor for throwing oneself headlong into a relationship — closing your eyes and not caring if a brick wall or cliff is up a mile ahead. The remainder is filled out with sticky riffs and melodies which avoid sounding like the standard pop fair. It sounds a bit amateurish, and Gardener and Bell hadn't quite found their footing vocally. Nonetheless, Smile brought something new to the table, and the U.K. audience and more adventurous U.S. fans clutched onto the sound for dear life. Rightfully so. [Oddly, Smile's mastering comes from the vinyl versions of the EPs. If you can track down the CD versions of the EPs separately, you'll notice a difference in quality. Also, the disc was remastered and reissued by Ignition in the U.K. in 2001; unlike the other releases in the campaign, the new version has no bonuses.]


Formed: 1988 in Oxford, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '10s

With their first records, Ride created a unique wall of sound that relied on massive, trembling distortion in the vein of My Bloody Valentine but with a simpler, more direct melodic approach. The shatteringly loud, droning neo-psychedelia the band performed was dubbed shoegazing by the British press because the bandmembers stared at the stage while they performed. Along with their initial influence, My Bloody Valentine, Ride stood apart from the shoegazing pack, primarily because of their keen sense...
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