Ride
Interplay


3.8
excellent

Review

by Sunnyvale STAFF
April 3rd, 2024 | 25 replies


Release Date: 03/29/2024 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Not perfect, but beating expectations

Interplay is Ride’s best album in over thirty years.

That feels like a striking claim at first glance, but a moment’s reflection reveals it’s much less of a hot take than might be initially assumed. After all, most of those three decades fell between the group’s original dissolution and their eventual reunion. And, despite Ride’s honored status as part of the triumvirate of shoegaze legends alongside My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive, most of the band’s full-lengths haven’t actually been viewed particularly favorably. Indeed, their first two records (1990’s Nowhere and 1992’s Going Blank Again) are the only LPs with any pretensions at “classic” status. After that good run, it was sharply downhill for a couple records in the ‘90s - notably, the Wikipedia article for 1994’s Carnival of Light includes this gem - “even the band members had become disillusioned, referring to it as “Carnival of Shite””. Classic! Even the band’s post-reunion albums, while generally well-received, haven’t snatched up the kind of laudatory praise which their OG shoegazer comrades have managed to garner in their second acts. Therefore, despite the fact that Interplay has some clearly-evident flaws, it also has a surprisingly low bar to clear in order to stand out.

This is a difficult record to summarize, as it feels both bold (stretching to nearly an hour in runtime and incorporating nearly every style Ride has tried previously in their career) and rather lackadaisical (coasting on sunny vibes and, well, incorporating nearly every style Ride has tried previously in their career). There’s some shoegaze, yes, some dream pop, some straight-up alt-rock, a touch of Britpop sweetness, a little stowaway folk-rock, and, hey, a big ole dollop of synthpop for good measure. This all-at-once strategy actually works a whole lot better than you might expect, even if the success rate varies widely song-to-song.

I mentioned the album’s flaws, and, besides the somewhat intermittent quality level, the most glaring problem is the lyricism. The lyrics here tend to combine a blandly lightweight sensibility with the kind of extremely vague political critique perhaps best described as Muse-esque (no, Ride haven’t gone all the way, we are NOT fucking fucked). The record’s sense of poetry (or lack thereof) is an issue throughout the tracklist, but how troublesome it is depends primarily on just how awesome the other musical elements are in a given song and how front-and-center the words are. Opener “Peace Sign” is perhaps the worst offender in these regards, aspiring to be a whole lot catchier than it actually is and putting its atrocious lyrical content in full view. By contrast, second track “Last Frontier” shares similarly trite wording, but given it’s less obvious and set amid a beautiful wash of psychedelic haze, I couldn’t care less. Later on, “I Came to See the Wreck” offers a similar lesson, its slow build into a euphoric wall of guitar noise making me quite easily forgive the repeated Matt Bellamy-isms of “this is a system breakdown”.

While bound together by the common thread of a colorful, vibrant, summery sonic feeling, the songs are fairly diverse, and more often than not that’s to their benefit. You’ll find standout tunes ranging from the infectious poppy banger “Monaco” to the electronic-tinged jam “Midnight Rider” (not an Allman Bros cover) to the sprawling, tripped-out “Essaouira”. This doesn’t mean everything works, though. “Light in a Quiet Room” is quite disjointed, although it has its moments, while “Stay Free” aims for rootsier melancholy, but feels like an afterthought, and a listless five-minute afterthought at that.

In the end, Interplay feels like something of an incoherent mess if looked at with a microscope, but zoom a bit further out and it maintains enough of a “vibe” to feel at least somewhat cohesive, while also being a fun listen which should be even more enjoyable as the sun comes out and the temperature climbs. It’s fitting that, after this expansive but uneven record, closer “Yesterday is Just a Song” resides on an ambiguous spot on the quality scale, possessing enough gravitas and emotional heft in its subdued beauty to work as a curtain call to the album (or, God forbid, the band’s career), but utterly forgettable as a standalone track. In short, this record never manages to reach a plateau of consistent excellence, but it does clearly demonstrate that Ride can still churn out some real choons. My introductory assessment that this is Ride at their finest in ages might be more an indictment of their previous output than definitive praise of this album specifically, but, on its own merits, Interplay still provides a whole lot to enjoy.



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user ratings (21)
3.3
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
April 3rd 2024


5908 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Album has some real lows and some real highs, but ultimately comes together fairly nicely. Tough one to write about!

Ryus
April 3rd 2024


36901 Comments


amazing band particularly going blank again
ill check this one out

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
April 3rd 2024


5908 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

This is pretty different from early '90s Ride, but there are echoes. Worth a try!

gabba
April 3rd 2024


1043 Comments


going blank again > nowhere, but I wasn't super-impressed by their post-reunion releases
they still do amazing gigs though

Slex
April 3rd 2024


16610 Comments


I bet this is cool enough

Sharenge
April 3rd 2024


5190 Comments


hmmm might have to check like the cover art I mean it's no sharkie but it'll do

theBoneyKing
April 3rd 2024


24438 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

There is some cool enough stuff on this but a lot of it comes across as pretty generic. Also not that they’re the focus but some of the lyrics are pretty awful. It could be a grower but I’m struggling to give it more than a few listens.

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
April 4th 2024


5908 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

@Boney, yeah, while this isn't a lyrics-focused release, they are a major weakness here. I think this style flirts with being too generic, but ultimately to me most of the songs do enough of their own thing to stand out. In the end, more of a "fun" album to me than anything which pushes the envelope, but I think the overall package is pretty good.

DoofDoof
April 4th 2024


15103 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Actually think all their stuff is a little overhyped, I’ve hardly returned to ‘Nowhere’ the last ten years. Guess I’ll return to this.

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
April 4th 2024


5908 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

I'll go to bat for Nowhere especially as a fairly special album (I have it at a 4, but may deserve more than that), but most of their other stuff is more in the "decent" range for me. I don't even hate their panned '90s albums, even if they're kinda "pleasant but boring".

mkmusic1995
Contributing Reviewer
April 4th 2024


1778 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great write up! Started getting into their first couple records this year and hearing them still going strong makes me happy

theBoneyKing
April 4th 2024


24438 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

"Monkey in the machines, machines in the monkey"



Bruh

DoofDoof
April 4th 2024


15103 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

‘I’ll go to bat for Nowhere especially as a fairly special album (I have it at a 4, but may deserve more than that)’



I have it at a 4 because technically it is impressive enough but I just never really bonded with it…it feels like it should be a 5 but something holds it back

theBoneyKing
April 4th 2024


24438 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Doof surely you recognize the incredibleness that is the first two tracks of Going Blank Again? Two absolutely perfect songs there. For me that’s their peak more than anything on Nowhere tbh.

RedRightHand
April 5th 2024


225 Comments


totally not generic, imo. pretty damn good.

Ryus
April 5th 2024


36901 Comments


"Doof surely you recognize the incredibleness that is the first two tracks of Going Blank Again? Two absolutely perfect songs there. For me that’s their peak more than anything on Nowhere tbh. "

and also OX4, chrome waves, mouse trap...one of the great alt rock/shoegaze albums ever

but yeah opener is basically the peak of the genre

Senetrix666
April 5th 2024


1583 Comments


ya going blank again is a top 10 shoegaze album for sure

theBoneyKing
April 5th 2024


24438 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Yeah Ry GBA is an all around great album but those two stand out significantly for me.

DoofDoof
April 5th 2024


15103 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I’ll head back to GBA, can’t say the album made that much impression on me when I tried it before :3



I’m not massive on the genre tbh, some great individual songs to unearth though - really been digging Catherine Wheel’s ‘Black Metallic’ this year

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
April 5th 2024


5908 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Catherine Wheel's first two albums are where it's at



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