Of all the permutations that guitar-driven music has appeared in since the early days of English blues-rock and the heavy metal revolution, few have had to make do with a genre title that was first used as an insult. But for the great shoegazers of the late 80s and early 90s, their supposed lack of stage charisma – young and skinny with sweeping fringes, and a heavy focus on the close vicinity of their footwear – became their point of reference.
They stared down at their effects pedals, and they built up swirling reverb as an art form. Glossy vocals and comparatively stark rhythm sections completed a sound that had its roots in Pink Floyd and The Who, but which also provided a significant influence on a lot of what was to come. Even if the thick-set pessimism of grunge seemed to win out at the time.
And so, to the men of the hour: Ride, one of the genre's most successful bands, are back together after almost twenty years. But why now? And why should we care?
After soft-rocking their way through four albums and three EPs, Ride split in 1996. Andy Bell, one of the two singer/guitarists from Ride along with Mark Gardener, joined Oasis as their bassist in 1999 and then followed Liam Gallagher as Beady Eye was born. As soon as they announced their split last October, the speculation about some sort of reunion – Oasis? Ride? – exploded.
And so, the old-timers are gearing up for another full tour, taking in Barcelona's Primavera Sound, Porto's NOS Primavera Sound and a headline slot at Field Day in London. Bell has gone full circle: from psychedelia-gone-soft, to Britpop and indie-rock, all the way back to where he started.
And that sums it up, really. You can hear the romantic optimisim and straining guitars of those shoegazing muso-geeks – My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Ride – running through the last couple of decades, from Sigur Rós to Maps and Blonde Redhead, and even The War on Drugs. Shoegaze may have fallen out of fashion back in the 90s, but it has stayed with us all the same. And it's no longer taboo to admit it.