February 16 — “Vapour Trail” by Ride


If you only listen to one song today, make it “Vapour Trail” by Ride (1990, from the album Nowhere)

Ride was a dream-pop band from Oxford, England. They were active from 1988 to 1996 and by the time they hung up their effects pedals, they were a completely different sounding band than when they started. They got away from the shoegaze stuff and were more into 60s-influenced rock. That wasn’t something I cared for, but it wasn’t their demise. By the end of it, they were fighting and bickering over the creative side of things. It got so bad that on Carnival of Light, Andy Bell and Mark Gardener split the album in half, refusing to have anything creatively to do with each other. They also literally split the album in half, refusing to have their songs interspersed with the other’s. Gardener’s songs were on side A, while Bell’s were on side B. Apart from the childish bickering, it just wasn’t a good record. It was poorly reviewed, and the band themselves would later refer to it as “Carnival of Shite”. The band broke up before their final record Tarantula was released, and the rumor was that they fell completely out of touch with each other. They reunited for one night in 2001 for some teevee show, but there have never been serious talks of a proper reunion.

Back to the point though. Today’s focus is on the brilliance of Ride in the early stages of their career.

The band released a couple of early singles and EPs, then in the autumn of 1990, they unleashed a smashing debut record in Nowhere. It’s widely considered to be one of the most important records of the shoegaze and dreampop genres. Above that, it’s considered to be one of the most seminal records of the decade, regardless of genre. It’s included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

While some albums from the 1990s haven’t aged well (I’m looking at you, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin), Nowhere has. I think it sounds just as good today as it did back then. Better, even. It recently got the “luxe and redux” treatment with a 20th Anniversary reissue package, which is pretty sweet. The original UK release of the album had eight songs, ending with “Vapour Trail”. When the US version was released a couple of months later, it included three more songs from the Fall EP. The 2010 re-issue added the songs from the Today Forever EP to make it a 15-song disc. There was also a bonus disc of a live show. Of course the original album tracks are tidied up and made brighter and more pleasant. It’s really amazing.

Here’s “Vapour Trail”:

I love that it starts off with the chiming of the jangly guitar. When the drums finally kick in after a few measures more than you might expect, it’s like a sack of wet bricks hitting the ground. It’s a jarring experience. Even after hundreds of listens over the years, that initial thud of the bass drum gets me excited every time. Later in the song, the drumming is pretty technical and really amazing.

Another thing that I really like about this song is the use of orchestral strings. The violin and cello are really nice. The song gets a bit loud and there are some heavily affected guitars in the back of the mix, but the highlight of this show is the, drums, followed closely by the strings. At the end of the song, long after the vocals are done, the electric instruments fade out and it’s just the drums and strings. I love that part. Then the drums fade out, and it closes with some strings.

It’s just a lovely, lovely song. The following lines are just icing on the cake:

And all my time
is yours as much as mine
We never have enough
time to show our love

Yeah. It’s about that. The object of his affection is a vapour trail in a deep blue sky. Here one day and gone the next. Gotta carpe that diem.

Although lots of copies still exist, the original issues of this have fallen out of print. Digital copies are available wherever you normally, legally get them. My advice, though, is to pony up for the 20th anniversary re-issue. Get it here.

About dlee

North Carolina born and bred. I'm a restaurant guy who spends free time listening to music, watching hockey and playing Scrabble. I have a bachelor's degree in political science and I will most likely never put it to use. View all posts by dlee

5 responses to “February 16 — “Vapour Trail” by Ride

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