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Music Review: 'Final Wild Songs,' The Long Ryders

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

And now a music story that started almost three decades ago. Out of all the '80s rock bands, The Long Ryders stood out for its blend of rock and country.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I DON'T CARE WHAT'S RIGHT, I DON'T CARE WHAT'S WRONG")

THE LONG RYDERS: (Singing) I don't care what's right. I don't care what's wrong. I just spend my time trying to get along.

MCEVERS: The Long Ryders landed a major label deal, spent five years touring and recording, got popular then called it quits, just like that. But this spring, the band members will play again together on stage. They've just released a career-spanning box set called "Final Wild Songs." Our reviewer Meredith Ochs says it cements the Long Ryders' legacy.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE LONG RYDERS SONG, "10/5/60")

MEREDITH OCHS, BYLINE: The Long Ryders emerged from a music scene known as the Paisley Underground. Bands that came out of it had reverence for '60 psychadelia and garage rock. The Long Ryders also added country influences to the mix. They wore bowl haircuts, mutton-chop sideburns and Western snap shirts, and their sound was a compelling infusion of jangly guitars and punk rock spark.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "10/5/60")

THE LONG RYDERS: (Singing) At every little party, it gets a little hard to get them up dancing, to make them walk the yard.

OCHS: In their short career, The Long Ryders developed considerable songwriting chops. From their raw but promising debut EP through three full-length albums, the band solidified as a musical unit, and their lyrics became more political, an oblique response to being a young gun in Reagan-era America.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOOKING FOR LEWIS AND CLARK")

THE LONG RYDERS: (Singing) I thought I saw my government running away with my heart. I thought I heard my Mubute anthems in Johannesburg after dark.

OCHS: The place where The Long Ryders were at their best was onstage. And this new collection offers a number of previously unreleased performances. Not only is it a reminder of how scorching their live shows were, but it also captures the bands utterly charming, goofy side. On this track, singer and guitarist Sid Griffin reads bad music reviews written about them while the rest of the band vamps. It's basically an '80s version of a mean tweet.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SID GRIFFIN: I'm not slagging C and W (ph); it's The Long Ryders I don't like. They're album sounds like a bad demo of Elvis Costello B-sides.

(APPLAUSE)

OCHS: If you drew a straight line from The Birds through Wilco, you'd intersect the Long Ryders right in the middle. But that's only part of what makes this band essential listening. The true test of music is time. And this music sounds as good and as relevant now as it did three decades ago.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AND SHE RIDES")

THE LONG RYDERS: (Singing) And she comes right where you are.

MCEVERS: Meredith Ochs is a talk show host and DJ at Sirius XM radio. She reviewed "Final Wild Songs" by the Long Ryders.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AND SHE RIDES")

THE LONG RYDERS: (Singing) And she goes away, and she rides today. And she rides... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.