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The Stone Roses
Peter Murphy, 03 Apr 2002
The Stone Roses: The Stone Roses
Release Date : May 1989. Label : Silvertone. Producer : John Leckie
THE LATE ’80s: Dullsville UK is under siege from the US and Oz. To the west, Public Enemy, NWA, The Pixies, Dinosaur Jr and Sonic Youth. From the south, The Bad Seeds, The Go-Betweens and The Triffids. All England has to offer in the way of a rock ‘n’ roll riposte is the likes of Gaye Bikers On Acid and The Mission. Blighty was, to quote Bonnie Tyler, holding out for a hero.
Enter the four horsemen of the apoca-lips, the Mancunian candidates, a bunch of shaggy-haired drug-addled reprobates peddling radical chic and a slew of iconic/iconoclastic songs.
Yep, like their contemporaries Happy Mondays and Primal Scream (whose ‘Velocity Girl’ was a big influence on this quartet, and who made arguably an even more epoch-defining album in the shape of Screamadelica – but that’s a debate for another day), The Stone Roses had attitude. They were also the first English act since The Smiths to look, sound, and possibly even smell like a band.
What this writer remembers most about the first time he heard The Stone Roses was not how innovative, but how familiar it sounded. Such was the stealth of their splicings: Reni – the spiritual son of both Mitch Mitchell and Buddy Miles – and Mani were a rare rhythm section, one subtle enough to underpin John Squire’s paisley chimes with insistent funk polyrhythms, and to fuse white alchemy (The Three O’ Clock, The Byrds) with black voodoo (Funkadelic and James Brown). Hitch all this to Ian Brown’s nasal drone, Biblical phraseology and social conscience (check out the ’68 Paris riots homage ‘Bye Bye Badman’ and the anti-monarchy ire of ‘Elizabeth My Dear’) and you get the sound that defined the hazy, drug-crazy summer of 1989.
The opening ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ was a dauntingly formidable statement of intent – Oasis later claimed that ‘D’You Know What I Mean’ was an attempt to recreate The Stones’ murderously brooding ‘Gimme Shelter’, but here, the Roses had already beaten them to the punch, effortlessly emulating and updating that masterpiece’s armagideon atmosphere.
The rest of the album yielded a succession of masterfully crafted pop songs stitched into one seamless trip: the breezy euphoria of ‘She Bangs The Drums’; the tumbledown glory of ‘Waterfall’ and its myrrh image ‘Don’t Stop’; the Babylonian twilight of ‘Made Of Stone’ ("Your pink fat lips let go a scream/You fry and melt . . .") and finally, the sprawling, self mythologising tour de force that was ‘I Am The Resurrection’. On the latter track the band build from a simple Tamla Motown beat as Brown piles verse upon verse, increasing the tension, until finally unveiling that soaring chorus: "I am the resurrection/And I am the light/I couldn’t ever bring myself/To hate you as I’d like".
Never mind that The Roses omitted classics like ‘Fool’s Gold’ and ‘Elephant Stone’ from the record, that certain of the production frills have fallen out of fashion, that they were a pretty crummy live band, or that every member bar Mani has managed to defile their own legacy with the mediocrity of their 90s solo endeavours. Ten years on, The Stone Roses remains synonymous with that first tantalising sniff of a high summer.
About The Stone Roses: six of the best
Odd fact: Producer John Leckie was selected not on evidence of his work with the likes of Magazine or Simple Minds, but the XTC offshoot and 60s pastiche project The Dukes Of Stratosphear
What they did next: Played the anti-climactic Spike Island gig, released the tepid ‘One Love’, entered into a succession of crippling court cases, signed to Geffen and spent three years cutting the troubled but underrated The Second Coming
Star track: ‘I Am The Resurrection’
Ace lyric line: "Kiss me where the sun don’t shine/The past was yours but the future’s mine/You’re all out of time" - ‘She Bangs The Drum’
Magic moment: The mid-section symbiosis of ‘Waterfall’ is spellbinding. Equally though, the elongated coda to ‘Resurrection’ is so gorgeously fluid, it serves to remind that behind all the mystique, there were some pretty gifted musicians at work
Related albums by other artists: Jimi Hendrix’ Electric Ladyland, The Byrds’ Younger Than Yesterday, Love’s Forever Changes, Primal Scream’s Screamadelica
To read the original 1989 Hot Press review, click here.