Magnum Opus – The Stone Roses
discount serif; font-size: medium;”>Ciaran Leinster
purchase serif;”>With the news last week that Manchester band The Stone Roses are due to reform, remedy beginning with two sold out gigs in Manchester in June, followed by a world tour and quite possibly new material, now is as good a time as any to reflect on the benchmark that any future work will be held up against – their eponymous 1989 debut album.
From the slow, grinding, industrial build up of ‘I Wanna Be Adored’, to the breathtaking outro that concludes ‘I Am the Resurrection’, The Stone Roses is a nigh-on flawless record, and quite possibly the one of the greatest debuts ever made. Held up (alongside the Happy Mondays’ Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches) as the epitome of the late-‘80s ‘Madchester’/Acid House scene, it begins the fusion of guitar pop and dance music that would later be expanded on by Primal Scream on Screamadelica in 1991.
The majority of the album was written by lead singer Ian Brown and guitarist John Squire, but both bass player Gary ‘Mani’ Mountfield (later of Primal Scream) and drummer Alan ‘Reni’ Wren (famous for his distinctive hat) received writing credits, as well befits one of the all-time great rhythm sections in music. Despite all members having a punk rock background (Brown and Squire originally bonded over a mutual love of The Clash), The Stone Roses is more immediately influenced by 1960s pop and West Coast psychedelia. That’s not to say the band shed their anarchistic views, as can be heard on the four-line track ‘Elizabeth My Dear’, where Brown sings about Queen Elizabeth II; “Tear me apart, and boil my bones, I’ll not rest ‘til she’s lost her throne, My aim is true, my message is clear, It’s curtains for you, Elizabeth my dear”. He also stated in an interview around the release of the album that he’d like to put a bag over the Queen Mother’s head and shoot her, so it’s fair to say that they didn’t entirely buy into the peace and love message of the music that influenced them.
Planting “psychological bombs”, as Mani later described the above comments, is all well and good, but The Stone Roses had the music to back up their swagger, having no filler on the album could have spawned 8 or 9 singles from this album alone. ‘She Bangs the Drums’ is a delightful slab of pure pop with lyrics that slightly betray the feeling of the music (“I feel my needle hit the groove… Kiss me where the sun don’t shine”), ‘Made Of Stone’ is another gritty-sounding anthem with a glorious, cyclical guitar hook intro, and ‘I Am The Resurrection’ contains wonderfully cocky lyrics (“I am the resurrection, and I am the light”), followed by a four-minute jam which ends the album on a deliriously ecstatic note.
The songs mentioned so far were all singles, but the remaining album tracks were of no lesser quality.
‘Bye Bye Badman’, written about the 1968 Paris riots, is a scathing polemicdrenched in pop bliss, ‘(Song For My) Sugar Spun Sister’ is so psychedelic it claims that “every member of Parliament trips on glue”, ‘Shoot You Down’ is just wonderful, jazzy pop with Brown’s typically soft vocals over the top, and ‘This Is The One’ gets you so pumped it’s almost a shame it comes as the penultimate track on the album.
So, even in one of the most eagerly awaited comebacks of recent times comes something of a
damp squib; Brown’s voice seems to have deteriorated almost daily since 1989 and Reni and Squire haven’t played publicly in years. Not to worry, even if the Resurrection is underwhelming, there is always this absolute classic to return too; where the Stone Roses remain frozen in time with all the hope, talent and bravado to take on the world. 22 years later, Brown has stated that as their goal, and with the success they deserved denied to them first time round, here’s hoping they succeed next year.