The Stone Roses. The pioneers of Britpop. The legends behind grooves and guitars. The sculptors of one of the best albums of all time. I throw the phrase around a lot – but I really do mean it here.
1989 brought us the eponymous debut of the Mancunian band, led by frontman Ian Brown. And it’s an album that has by no means waned in the years since its release. In fact, it’s one of the few records I own on both vinyl and CD. It’s that good. It paved the way for Britpop, before Britpop – And acts such as Oasis, Blur and Suede – even existed. It’s easy to see why. The at-times distorted guitars, the amps up high, the basslines that grooved and rocked simultaneously. The lyrics about growing up in the Madchester scene… it was a perfect storm for music nirvana.
And it’s only eleven tracks. The same as most any album. Yet there are, at best, only a couple you’d skip – and that’s saying something. No album, typically, is perfect. There are always a few filler tracks, short instrumentals or pieces that just don’t fit. It’s to be expected. But I honestly listen to this LP from start to finish whenever it’s on. It’s easy, it’s laid back, yet somehow it roars and rocks with the rest of them. Even as old school rock ‘n roll was dying; The Stone Roses kept the best parts alive; an endless ebb and flow like Frankenstein’s monster.
‘I Wanna Be Adored’ opens the record, drifting slowly into the opening bassline that picks up speed with drums and guitar. The sounds of industrial machinery linger on in the background, a stark reminder of just where these boys were made, and where the music was, too. Brown’s lead vocals are but faint whispers at first, but quickly escalate into all out roars. ‘I wanna… I gotta be adored.’ are lyrics that stay with you.
‘She Bangs the Drums’ is a personal highlight for me. It’s the track of theirs that made me listen. The bass, once again, is infectious, plugged directly into the music and never wavering. The pitter-patter of drumsticks soar into guitars that take you back to sunny days with the car roof down. That’s exactly what this album is. The soundtrack to the best road trip of your life. ‘I feel my needle hit the groove…’ is just one of many lyrical masterpieces with this track, and the chorus shatters into you. It’s pure. It’s contagious. It’s one hell of a song.
‘Waterfall’ is another catchy Britpop-esque tune with ethereal vocals from Brown and mellow guitars to smother you in this feeling of… alrightness. Everything’s okay and chilled out after such a rocker. The next track, ‘Don’t Stop’, is the most boggling of the album. And unless you have equipment to reverse music near you, you’ll probably skip it. In theory, it’s a masterstroke of technical genius from Brown and the rest of the Manchester boys. If you happen to play the entire track backwards, you’ll find it is, in fact, ‘Waterfall’. Except it isn’t. Brown took the delicate time to find words that, when reversed, sound like the lyrics to ‘Waterfall’, before taking some of the instruments and playing them the correct way around. The result is, no doubt, founded on a large amount of drugs, but it’s a powerful statement: The Stone Roses are geniuses.
‘Bye Bye Badman’ is tuned-down at first, but you know by now how this will end. Yep, another fast-paced chorus with stomping beat. ‘Elizabeth My Dear’ is the only time I feel the album is let down, sadly, though it is only a minute long. This daunting chiller of a track opens with the words, ‘Tear me apart, and boil my bones…’ and it’s… really not bad. It just feels out of place.
‘(Song For My) Sugar Spun Sister’ is a love story about Brown repeatedly going back to a cotton candy vendor to see her, but in the process eats so much of the stuff he feels horribly sick. It’s got some of the most indecipherable vocals on the album, but it’s probably the happiest in sound. It’s just beautiful.
So, naturally, ‘Made of Stone’ has a heavier, far darker sound. The opening guitar is downright haunting, echoing into a solo complete with rocket take-off. The pace is quick, the lyrics are terrifying, the track is awesome. ‘Sometimes I fantasise, when the streets are cold and lonely, and the cars they burn below me.’
‘Shoot You Down’ is a revenge anthem of sorts, groovy and mellow. ‘I’d love to do it and you know you always had it coming…’ are lyrics I’m sure we can all resonate with somehow. ‘This Is The One’, for me, is the band’s magnum opus. It is simply flawless. The introductory drums blast into you, before taking you on a mystery tour of infectious bassline – The Roses are superb at this – with intersperses of crashing cymbals again. It never stops building; it’s this empire of song. ‘I’d like to leave the country, for a month of Sundays, burn the town where I was born!’ are some of Brown’s thunderous vocals here, and they’ve never sounded more welcome. By the end, you’ll be chanting, ‘This is the one!’ with the rest of them.
Now, the album’s closer, the impressive eight-minute ‘I Am The Resurrection’ is one of the Roses’ most revered tracks. It’s easy to see why. The rhythm section is airtight, and Brown’s vocals sail through the air like honey mixed with motor oil. Every word that hangs from his lips sound laced with poison. ‘Burn, burn, I wish you’d burn…’ makes you want to find the opposer themselves and remind them who the Roses are. ‘I am the resurrection and I am the light…’ are seriously beautiful lyrics. The track mounts into a crashing of drums, guitar and warbling chords to wash over you like baptism by fire.
And before you know it, the Roses’ debut is over. You wish it was longer, you want it louder. You press ‘Play’ all over again. It really is that good.