Yet again, another band that shone brightly then crashed down to earth just as fast. I have a feeling this story happens a lot in this list.
The Stone Roses were the band that followed the Smiths in Manchester. They were the nexus of the insane Madchester scene, the one that was so lovingly portrayed in the movie 24 Hour Party People. Their self titled début album came along at the end of the 80s, before punk broke again and after the New Romantics all snuggled their supermodel wives and went to rehab to kick their cocaine habits. The Smiths had self destructed. It was inevitable, after all, Johnny and Moz hated each other. But they played the game rather well for a Wilde loving, gladioli waving cypher and a guitar genius. The Stone Roses were surly and angry. They sprang from where the Smiths were. They were the antithesis to them as well.
The Stone Roses is one of those records you listen to if you want to return to a specific time and place. It’s too definitive of the Madchester ideal to have aged particularly well. While not as heavily reliant on the acid house dance beats as the Happy Mondays were, the style is distinctive to late 80s rock, and add in Ian Brown’s wispy vocals on a song like ” I Wanna Be Adored”, it’s the precursor to shoegazers and Britpop, but clearly the beginning of these genres, as the Stone Roses are still more influenced by traditional classic rock guitars than the New Romantics that were their immediate predecessors.
A song like “She Bangs The Drum” shows the bands loyalty to a good pop melody. Fresh sounding in 1988, it now sounds like a bit of a relic. But there is a genuinely great song here, a bright, bouncy song with a great bass line.
The more sixties vibe of “Waterfall” makes this song oddly one of the few that has aged the best. A love song of sorts, it remains one of the bright shining moments of the Madchester movement. Shaun Ryder wishes he wrote a song this lovely.
My favourite song on the album is the massive, epic ” I am The Resurrection”. Eight minutes long with a four-minute outro, with a driving rhythm section and psychedelic guitars, it ends the album with an ambitious bang. Brown slashes and burns the object of his rage. It’s brilliant.
This album when I was twelve was a huge influence on me. I already had the Smiths, but when they disintegrated I was left with… well, American rock was a wasteland of hair metal and… well, hair metal. Bands like the Stone Roses tided me over until Nirvana and Pearl Jam came out of Seattle in 1991. 1989/1990 were terrible years for rock music. The album hasn’t aged well, sure, but it doesn’t make it bad. Just dated. For its time and place, The Stone Roses is a masterpiece.
On another note: My absolute favourite Stone Roses song was not even on this album, but on their maligned 1994 follow-up Second Coming. It was a soul crushing disappointment of a record, but “Love Spreads” is a fucking awesome song and don’t you dare forget it.