Friday, March 23, 2012

Charlatans, Ride, and the 20th anniversary editions that never happened

Sometimes you read an article that seems as though it was written especially for you.  John Bergstrom's recent review/reminiscence of long neglected Ride and Charlatans UK albums from 1992 is one of them.

There's a really, REALLY narrow generation of music fans who a) got swept up in the 2nd wave of shoegaze and Madchester bands, and b) kept listening to those bands when they weren't the hot new thing anymore.  I was one of those people.  I listened to the Charlatans' "Between 10th and 11th" constantly in 1992, either that or the Orb's "U.F Orb" were my most listened to albums of that year.  I knew it was an imperfect, somewhat streaky (perhaps even Verve-y) album, and probably* not as good as their debut.  I loved it anyway, it was my "go to" album of the year, appropriate for any mood, any occasion.   Most people thought it was just another band going through their sophomore slump on the way down to one hit wonder oblivion.  The fact that The Charlatans recovered their reputation and became the last band standing from their era, with the #1 UK albums to boot, was pretty remarkable.   

I didn't have a job and basically had to beg my parents to let me spend the money on going to their concert in April of that year, the only time I ever had to do that.

Of course I overplayed "Between 10th and 11th" and when I discovered about a million new bands the next year (and had more disposable income for buying music) I very rarely even glanced at it for the next couple of years, and until just now, I hadn't heard most of these songs for well over a decade.  Every song, every word, every note, sounded so instantly familiar.  "Between 10th and 11th" might be a bit of a troublesome album, arguably the only Charlatans album where they didn't seem to know what kind of band they wanted to be.  But it still sounds inspired, and I still can hear exactly why I loved it in 1992.

Ride's "Going Blank Again" is a bit of a different story.  For me, this album never went away, and I still can't understand why anyone would prefer it to their debut.  "Nowhere" was a copycat album through and through, "Going Blank Again" was an original.  Witness "Leave Them All Behind" -- shoegaze meets the Who and the Beach Boys, rocking out for eight unstoppable minutes.  Which other bands were doing that?  But even though it had so many individually great tracks, "Going Black Again" always seemed like less than the sum of its parts.  I'd followed the Charlatans from their first single onward, but I hadn't heard much of Ride until this album (CFNY played the Charlatans all the time in those days, Ride only rarely) and didn't have an existing emotional attachment to them.

That's not the whole story though, because even though the album (and "Leave Them All Behind" to a greater extent) got a lot of praise at the time, nobody really talks about it anymore.  Bergstrom doesn't offer any ideas as to why that happened either, other than the obvious (i.e. the band broke up a couple of years later, shoegaze fell off most critics' radar, etc.), but none of those reasons have prevented songs and albums from attaining classic status before.

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