Mark Gardener

These Beautiful Ghosts

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The beginning of Ride's descent, according to many a shoegazer, can be traced to the day someone slipped the band a copy of the Byrds' Notorious Byrd Brothers. From that moment, the band underwent a complete makeover. Multiple layers of storming guitars were replaced with an acoustic guitar, strings, and a tamboura (and a contribution from Deep Purple's Jon Lord), while the shabby university dropout look was exchanged for Laurel Canyon chic (as if they had taken a time machine back to the 1969 set of Mr. Dressup). Any detractor with common sense had to at least concede that Mark Gardener's songs on Carnival of Light ("From Time to Time," for instance) easily surpassed the ones written by Andy Bell ("Crown of Creation"), so it was apparent that Gardener's transition was relatively natural. And then came Tarantula, where the downward spiral began to look more like a greased chute -- Gardener was roughly (only) eight percent responsible for that. Between then and the 2005 release of his first solo album, Gardener released a single on Shifty Disco, made an album with the hard-to-remember Animalhouse, recorded a couple guest appearances, and did some ambitious touring. He used the money from the touring to finance These Beautiful Ghosts, an album that doesn't stray all that far from Carnival of Light ("Snow in Mexico," "Getting out of Your Own Way," and the eight-years-old "Magdalen Sky" especially). It's less ambitious and more emotionally rounded, backed by fellow Oxford natives Goldrush, a band with an apparent affinity for the likes of Neil Young, the Band, and therefore latter-day Teenage Fanclub. Gardener's more skilled as a singer, which could either be a good or bad thing, depending on what angle you're coming from: you'll either think he sounds better than ever or miss the charmingly naïve boyishness heard on Nowhere (or both). His songs are generally strong, which helps make up for the fact that they're not an advance from what he was doing a full decade prior (see also: Slowdive/Mojave 3/Neil Halstead/Rachel Goswell).

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