Thursday, March 06, 2014

The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses - 1989

I've still don't really understood how The Stone Roses never caught on as big in the States as they are in their native England. Maybe there's something about them that's just inherently British that doesn't connect as well with people here, or maybe we just weren't at the same headspace as that side of the pond in 1989. I mean, The Stone Roses were college darlings here, but they didn't take the world by storm. Compare that to the way they were treated in England, where their second album was called "Second Coming" and they weren't being too tongue in cheek about it. (Well, maybe a little bit.)

Formed back in 1983, The Stone Roses were playing together for a good long time before their first album came out. They put out a single, opened for Pete Townsend (of The Who fame), settled on their final lineup in 1987 and eventually scored a record deal, putting together an album in 1988, the self-titled "The Stone Roses." And thus, a legend was born. In some ways, here in the states, The Stone Roses were almost like the Velvet Underground - they weren't widely heard, but it seemed like everyone who heard them formed a band. You'll see a lot of people cite The Stone Roses as inspiration for them starting a band, which is interesting, because The Stone Roses sound hasn't really been imitated all that much.

The Stone Roses were, in many ways, the co-founders of the Madchester scene -  they were doing guitar pop mixed heavily with dance and rave music. (The other co-founder of the scene would be, of course, The Happy Mondays, although I wouldn't argue against people like New Order and James being put in there as well.) The idea was to take some of the elements of psychedelia and meld them with bits of disco. Lots of people were looking for something new, and The Stone Roses had latched onto something.

The first song from the album that started catching on was "She Bangs The Drums,"which you can hear is filled with sparkling guitars and a sing-song chorus that's almost dream pop, but it's all backed by a very danceable beat, swinging and catchy. Just listen to that chugging mid-section around the 1:30 mark, as you get what can only be called an interlude. The Stone Roses weren't afraid to let the groove dictate the song, and Ian Brown, the band's vocalist, was happy to ride the groove even as the lyrics blended through it. And the band realized that the groove was certainly catching on, and that people loved the blend of dance and pop. In fact, it was a B-side to their first album that really got the band catapulted into the limelight, a little song called "Fool's Gold."

If you listen to nothing else this week, listen to all nearly ten minutes of "Fool's Gold." It's the very definition of groove rock. There's a playful, wobbly bass line setting the tone and a steady dance beat that never backs off, and John Squire's guitar is coy and mischievous, hopping in and out of the spotlight, coloring in and out to paint the corners and sometimes be front and center. "Fool's Gold" was popular enough that the album was re-released in both the UK and the US to include the song, which was tearing up college charts here left and right.

Even if the band had never done anything again, the slinky, experimental dance-rock of "Fool's Gold" built an entire music genre. The band went through a mess of problems but eventually "Second Coming" was released in 1994, and I've always felt the album never got the fair shake it deserved. It was more bluesy, and a bit more upfront, but hell, it was a pretty damn great album. On tour for it, the band started to disintegrate and collapsed in 1996.

For years and years, there were repeated rumors of the band reforming, but they all dismissed it as "never going to happen." Meanwhile, the popularity of the band continued to grow and grow in the UK until they were legends. Ian Brown put out several solo albums, many of which were quite good, John Squire formed a new band called The Seahorses that put out one album and then disbanded, the drummer Reni played in a small band but didn't do much, and Mani, the group's bassist, joined Primal Scream, where he flourished.

And then in 2011, after 15 years, The Stone Roses reformed. They played a couple of shows in 2012, a couple of shows last year, and there's talk they're working on or starting or finishing a new album, and the hope is that we'll see them touring here this year or next, because god knows I'd love to see them live.

Let me leave you with one last track from the album, the album's original closing track, the swaggering "I Am The Resurrection."

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