Wednesday, October 10, 2007

[051] The Stone Roses

Album: The Stone Roses
Artist: The Stone Roses
Release Date: May 1989
Label: Silvertone
Producer: John Leckie, with Peter Hook and Paul Schroeder

"I can feel the Earth begin to move
I hear my needle hit the groove
And spiral through another day
I hear my song begin to say
Kiss me where the sun don't shine
The past was yours, but the future's mine
You're all out of time"
- from "She Bangs The Drums"

Approximately every five years or so, a British guitar band emerges, directing the UK music scene to turn the corner around their singular sound. In 1987, there was a void left by the dissolution of the reigning band of the moment, fellow Mancunians The Smiths. The Stone Roses promptly strolled in and stole the spot. This album detonated like an atom bomb – seven singles over two years! It was so big that they even managed to crack the Top 40 in the US. The Stone Roses were utterly British, very much in the tradition of UK guitar groups, but surprisingly, totally original; not beholden to the storied glory of the first Invasion, not art students turning on the prog or glamming it up, not interested in reliving Punk’s heyday, and not interested in funny new wave hairdos and synthesizers. It’s funny to think how special they were now, essentially kicking off both the Madchester scene and the Britpop movement, but in the end, only The Stone Roses sound like The Stone Roses. Instead of trying to sound like their heroes, the simply made their own sound from the bits and pieces they liked. They got attitude from The Stones, innocence from The Who, curiosity from The Kinks and Jam, expansiveness from Pink Floyd and The Cure, chiming guitar from The Smiths, U2, and The La’s, fire and bravado from Zeppelin, funk grooves and a little splattered paint from The Clash. They were definitely on to something; too bad they disappeared for five years of legal troubles, and when they returned the rest of the British bands had caught on to the formula.

But when they hit, man, they were fuckin’ good! I beg you to watch the Blackpool videos down at the bottom. They’ll give you the full power of the band; they were like the Brit-Rock Death Star, destroying planets with precision. It’s a wonder to me why John Squire ever felt the need to rehash Jimmy Page on the delayed second album and when he later formed The Seahorses, because on this album, he is completely original. That’s virtually an impossibility – to be an original Rock guitar player – but Squire pulled it off with style. In the years while the band was “on hiatus”, he got ripped off so much, it’s amazing he didn’t go nuts and hang himself. The Verve, Oasis, Blur, even The Chemical Brothers to some extent, they all owe their careers to The Stone Roses, and particularly Squire for pointing them in the right direction. Even people bigger than him were stealing his moves! I’d say, ya know, well, look, I’m not pointing any fingers, but…Loveless? Achtung Baby? Blood Sugar Sex Magik? They all came out after this album blew up. That’s all I’m saying.

And ditto on the rhythm section. “Fools Gold” is one of the most important era-defining singles of these twenty years, and the tag team of Mani & Reni wasted all competition with a ten-minute funk groove that James Brown wish he came up with, drenched in John Squire’s wah wah chug. Mani is one of the greatest bass players of all time that no one ever thinks to mention, and it’s a blessing for music fans that he continues to play as part of Primal Scream; the breakdown and second half of “I Am The Resurrection” is so crazy good, it rivals the legend of “Fools Gold”. His playing always served as the basis of the song, somehow managing to be a reliable supporting player and the star of the show simultaneously. His rumble opens the album by using the Pixies as a jumping off point on “I Wanna Be Adored”, but quickly detours through pop-punk on “She Bangs The Drums”. On the gorgeous “Waterfall” and the jazzy “Shoot You Down”, he provides the color, skipping around the melody with joyous punctuation. He was always arm in arm with Reni, the affable chap in the background with the Gilligan hat on. Reni is just as underappreciated, in the larger scheme of things, as Mani is, if not more so. He played with a smaller kit, but turned out dizzying polyrhythms it seemed with ease, not unlike Stephen Perkins from Jane’s Addiction; The Who’s Pete Townshend said Reni was the most naturally gifted drummer he had seen since Keith Moon, a helping of praise any drummer would kill their mother for. His charging onslaught on “Elephant Stone” warps time and space, while the aforementioned “Fools Gold” reinvented the “Funky Drummer” in a post-Hip-Hop world, and laid it out for all the Indie Rock kids to dance to.

No matter how fucking blazing your band is, you can’t make history without a great frontman, and Ian Brown, little dancing monkey that he is, is just that – a great frontman. Now, that’s not to say he’s a technically superb vocalist, but his personality goes a long way, and lucky for me and you and this album, these are his best performances. Brown is like that friend you have who is a great singer, but doesn’t tell anyone and only sings in the shower or while driving or cooking, etc. He’s the type of guy who just opens up his mouth and the right sounds come out. It doesn’t even matter what he’s saying most of the time; this is one of the few times I’ve written one of these entries without looking up lyrics as a research tool. Ian Brown sounds perfectly Rock & Roll and mysterious, spinning yarns about the future being his on “She Bangs The Drums”. Producer John Leckie put Brown in a canyon to warble to his heart’s content, but it works. Brown has a plush soft side to his singing that makes songs like “Bye Bye Badman” and the bittersweet “Sugar Spun Sister” that much better. His tone isn’t far from early Ray Davies; “Made Of Stone” could easily be one of The Kinks’ classic Pye singles. Ian Brown became a hedonistic icon to a young generation of Brits, all blissful and zoned out, dancing like a wet noodle with his caved-in cheeks; he was the opposite of Morrissey’s emotional intensity. And maybe that sums up why the band succeeded – with the rise of rave culture, the audience was looking to have some fun. The Stone Roses weren’t exactly a dance band, but they could rock your party better than pretty much anyone.

01. "I Wanna Be Adored"
02. "She Bangs The Drums"
03. "Waterfall"
04. "Don't Stop"
05. "Bye Bye Badman"
06. "Elizabeth My Dear"
07. "(Song For My) Sugar Spun Sister"
08. "Made Of Stone"
09. "Shoot You Down"
10. "This Is The One"
11. "I Am The Resurrecttion"
This is the original UK version; The US version adds UK singles "Elephant Stone", between "She Bangs The Drums" and "Waterfall", and "Fools Gold" as the final song.

"I Wanna Be Adored" [live at Blackpool Empress Ballroom, 12.89]

"Fools Gold" [single edit - video]

- BONUS: "I Wanna Be Adored" [video]
- BONUS: "I Wanna Be Adored" [live at The Hacienda, 01.89]
- BONUS: "She Bangs The Drums" [video]
- BONUS: "Elephant Stone" [video]
- BONUS: "Elephant Stone" [live at Blackpool Empress Ballroom, 12.89]
- BONUS: "Waterfall" [single edit - video]
- BONUS: "Waterfall" [live at Blackpool Empress Ballroom, 12.89]
- BONUS: "Don't Stop" [audio]
- BONUS: "Bye Bye Badman" [audio]
- BONUS: "(Song For My) Sugar Spun Sister" [audio]
- BONUS: "Made Of Stone" [live at Blackpool Empress Ballroom, 12.89]
- BONUS: "Made Of Stone" [live on BBC's The Late Show]
The infamous "power cut" during the band's first TV performance.
- BONUS: "Shoot You Down" [audio]
- BONUS: "This Is The One" [audio]
- BONUS: "I Am The Resurrection" [audio]
- BONUS: "I Am The Resurrection" [live at Blackpool Empress Ballroom, 12.89]
- BONUS: "Fools Gold" ["live" on Top Of The Pops]
- BONUS: "Fools Gold" [full version - audio]

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