I remember the first time I heard The Stone Roses debut album, I was around 13 years old, I was flipping through my uncle’s record collection and came across this intriguing multicoloured cover art, I let the needle hit the groove, I was hooked and the rest was history. Today it turns 30 years old, so I’ve revised a piece I wrote about the album some years ago.
The Stone Roses debut is an album of epiphanies, a piece of art, that eschews the modern trend for single tracks, playlists and iTunes shuffle. Each song bleeds into the next (rather like the colours of guitarist John Squire’s Jackson Pollack like artwork) creating a glorious, joyous, unstoppable whole, the soundtrack to 1989, the end of the decade and the heralding of a bright, shiny new one the colliding of rave and independent guitar music. The Stone Roses emerged from Manchester, a band of brothers, a group of lads with a down to earth personas yet vast ambition that stuck out in an era where ‘indie’ bands shy’d away from such proclamations.
From the rumbling rocket ship take off on opener ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ that subtlety builds through Mani’s bass, dappling jazz-like riffs of Squire, Reni’s rhythmic beat is both solid yet infinitely more playful than any drum machine. While Ian Brown’s half-whispered Mancunian melody literally grows in confidence until his repetition of the title line becomes a chest-beating statement of intent, corralled by John Squire’s now lassoing guitar figures that are writ large in the sun blushed sky. The Stone Roses were a band in complete synergy in this period, each player part of a whole, Brown’s foghorn-like voice would later be heavily and rightly criticised, here he sounds magical, less a singer more a vocalist, one part of the reverb-drenched instrumental mix, carefully and cleverly curated by legendary producer John Leckie.
The single ‘She Bangs The Drums’ is absolutely infectious, rushing, spiraling melodies are powered Squire’s insistent jagged notes and Reni’s clambering drums. Its the euphoric sound of the first flush of indescribable love, and the sound of a new beginning, a youth movement. “the past is yours but the future is mine” sings Brown like a promise. It’s echoed by the joyous 60s psych-jangle of ‘Sugar Spun Sister’ underscored by cymbal ticks and bounding bass, Brown’s swagger detailing his pursuit of a lover in sweltering heat, that’s intercut by half-remembered bizarre political imagery (“The grass is several shades of blue/ Every member of Parliament trips on glue…”) and the Catherine wheel guitars. The gradual drum and bass lines of ‘This Is The One’ that’s pressure rises to a cacophony, and an imploring chorus line, bringing to mind a club full of revelers hands in the air, literally off their heads on ecstasy. Along with The Happy Mondays they were one of the bands that soundtracked the era of the Hacienda and Madchester, yet they were never signed by Tony Wilson’s Factory.
The Roses debut wasn’t all sunshine melodies though, ‘Made of Stone’ is dripping with melancholia and fantasy, driven by a menacing bass line, Reni’s expert drum fills and Squire’s arpeggios span three minutes. The flanged guitars ride a wave of producer John Leckie’s making. While the sparse funk of ‘Shoot you down’ is littered with acerbic put-downs. The messianic power of closer ‘I Am The Resurrection’ that is the pinnacle of the album, built on Reni’s trademark beat, it builds layer upon layer from melodic whisper to skyscraping chorus, and then into a psychedelic jam that’s rippled with the kind of twists and turns more associated with dance music, bright imaginative, and empowering. Its final refrain of ‘I am the Resurrection/ And I am the light’ belies Brown’s almost superhuman confidence in his band of brothers and defines the sheer transformational quality of this record. So despite the cocaine breakdowns of their ‘Second Coming’, their ill-fated Reading Festival show in 1996 and their not unsurprising complete inability to scale these heights again to recreate the past with their flat comeback a few years ago. Their influence which may have fed into the questionable 90s Britpop ‘lad’ culture, led by Liam Gallagher. And the fact it probably wasn’t, as some poll claimed, the second greatest album ever, The Stone Roses debut still captured a moment in time, in vivid Technicolor, one that could never be relived.
The Stone Roses unforgettable debut is seared onto the subconsciousness of music fans of a certain vintage, there’s a reason why whole crowds sang every word back to them at their reformation gigs. Their influence would bleed into the next decade with Oasis taking up the baton and ambition of the Roses to more commercial heights. This is a record that blurs the lines between dance music and independent music, it’s dripping in life-changing changing confidence and ambition, distilling the sound of one summer, the end of the 1980s, bright, hopeful, it’s the sound of coming up, the melding of two until then opposing cultures, and for one brief unattainable moment anything seemed possible.