Ride’s career trajectory is an interesting one, one that follows the opposite path of their contemporaries My Bloody Valentine. Whereas MBV began life playing inconsequential pop only to become more complex and dense, Ride entered the scene as something already fairly elaborate before smoothing down the rough edges of their sound and morphing from shoegaze icons to Brit-pop also-rans. That may be the reason why it’s taken so long for Ride to earn the reputation that they deserve among music fans who may not have been around for the peak and decline. (Guitarist Andy Bell’s stint in late-period Oasis probably didn’t help things either.)This story is laid quite plainly on OX4, the 2001 compilation of Ride’s work that has been re-issued for a second time to coincide with the band’s reunion tour this year. As it did fourteen years ago, OX4 succinctly chronicles the Ride story, from its dizzying highs to its dreadful lows.

OX4 works as well as it does despite the fact that it has the monumental task of reducing Nowhere, one of the sacred texts of shoegaze, down to a handful of essential tracks. Smartly, the focus stays on the singles, and what a collection of singles they used. “Taste” and “Dreams Burn Down” (both from the Fall EP, which was added to the U.S. version of Nowhere) are perfect representations of what Ride was accomplishing in this era, a brilliant continuation of what the band was doing on their earlier EPs, represented here by the likes of “Chelsea Girl” and “Like A Daydream.” Of course, we can’t talk about Nowhere without talking about “Vapour Trail,” the band’s best song and one of the most achingly beautiful things ever recorded. Its lyrics may seem a little juvenile in retrospect, but time has done nothing to hurt the song’s power.

Going Blank Again occupies a weird spot in Ride’s discography, but it might benefit the most from the reevaluation that OX4 invites. While Nowhere defies reduction, Going Blank Again almost welcomes it, and its representatives on OX4 perfectly surmise the band’s changing direction at the time. It helps that singles like “Leave Them All Behind” and “Twisterella” happen to be really, really good in their melding of shoegaze and power-pop. It’s not quite the rush of Nowhere, but these songs are definitely worth a listen.

The only truly unfortunate aspect to OX4 is that it has to document Ride’s steady artistic decline. After Going Blank Again, the band shamelessly jumped onto the Britpop bandwagon in a way that only seems even more bizarre and ill-advised in a current context. Even with fresh ears, the songs from the quite-poor Carnival Of Light reek of desperation; it’s as if the band had no clue how to balance their artistic integrity with their commercial aspirations, only to say “fuck it” and go for the easy check. It’s an era I’m sure the band would be hesitant to revisit, which makes its inclusion on a best-of even more bewildering. And the less we say of “Black Nite Crash” from the deservedly-forgotten Tarantula, the better.

It’s safe to say that, even upon reissue; OX4 doesn’t offer a revisionist history of Ride’s career. Mostly everything about the band is here, from the good to the bad to the downright awful. The justification behind this reissue appears to be that the band’s reunion is a good time to reassess their music, but OX4 only seems to confirm the conventional wisdom about the band’s career arc. On the other hand, as an introduction for new fans, the album will do just fine. I would recommend that you stop listening after track 10, though.

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