Sunday, January 08, 2006

Brit rock resurrection

The Stone Roses
The Stone Roses (Silvertone, 1989)
Key tracks: She Bangs the Drums, Elephant Stone, Waterfall, Don't Stop, This Is the One, I Am the Resurrection
9/10 (US Version)

"Note: The United States version appends the Roses' earlier single, 'Elephant Stone' before 'Waterfall' and adds 'Fools Gold' as the final track." -Wikipedia

AMG (5/5)
Since the Stone Roses were the nominal leaders of Britain's "Madchester" scene -- an indie rock phenomenon that fused guitar pop with drug-fueled rave and dance culture -- it's rather ironic that their eponymous debut only hints at dance music. What made the Stone Roses important was how they welcomed dance and pop together, treating them as if they were the same beast. Equally important was the Roses' cool, detached arrogance, which was personified by Ian Brown's nonchalant vocals. Brown's effortless malevolence is brought to life with songs that equal both his sentiments and his voice -- "I Wanna Be Adored," with its creeping bassline and waves of cool guitar hooks, doesn't demand adoration, it just expects it. Similarly, Brown can claim "I Am the Resurrection" and lie back, as if there were no room for debate. But the key to The Stone Roses is John Squire's layers of simple, exceedingly catchy hooks and how the rhythm section of Reni and Mani always imply dance rhythms without overtly going into the disco. On "She Bangs the Drums" and "Elephant Stone," the hooks wind into the rhythm inseparably -- the '60s hooks and the rolling beats manage to convey the colorful, neo-psychedelic world of acid house. Squire's riffs are bright and catchy, recalling the British Invasion while suggesting the future with their phased, echoey effects. The Stone Roses was a two-fold revolution -- it brought dance music to an audience that was previously obsessed with droning guitars, while it revived the concept of classic pop songwriting, and the repercussions of its achievement could be heard throughout the '90s, even if the Stone Roses could never achieve this level of achievement again. -Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Geocities (10/10)
What the album really doesn't need is yet another epic, but this lovely US version of the album sticks the ten minute funk-dance number "Fools Gold" onto the end of the album. The song itself is certainly very well done, but ten minutes is a little overlong for just about any dance song, and "Fools Gold" doesn't really belong here. It's enjoyable once in a while, but I usually just turn my stereo off after "I Am the Resurrection," anyway. -Chris Moose

Album Vote
"Waterfall" is a showcase switching from acoustic to wah-wah to funk without once sounding clumsy. It metamorphoses into "Don't Stop", essentially the same song backwards with wacko forward lyrics. This is a trip. It could have been the weak link, but instead is put across with so much invention that it works perfectly. Words and phrases are half-heard, half-drowning under waves of psychotic psychedelics. "Ah so much waste, how we'll be teased." Well, it sounds like that. "If you ask me you're imbecile." Then the voice goes under for the third time and it's over. Wow. -Melody Maker

Track-by-track description

1. The album opens with "I Wanna Be Adored", a song the Roses had been performing live since just after their inception. It begins with the swirling sounds of a steam train before Mani's recognisable, throbbing bass line kicks in. Singer Ian Brown plays with the ideas of stardom and being seen as something of a deity. "I wanna be adored/I wanna, I gotta be adored" he whispers.

2. Next is "She Bangs The Drums", possibly the Roses' second most famous song, behind the 1989 single "Fools Gold". Clocking in at 3 minutes and 44 seconds, the song is energetic with another recognisable bass line and John Squire's shimmering guitars. Somewhat curiously, while Ian Brown was responsible for the lyrics in the verses, Squire was responsible for the lyrics that make up the chorus.

3. "Waterfall" is a song that musically harkens back to the lighter side 60s pop, being reminiscent perhaps of The Byrds. According to Ian Brown it is "...a song about a girl who sees all the bullshit, drops a trip and goes to Dover. She's tripping, she's about to get on this boat and she feels free." Brown has occasionally picked issue with John Leckie's production on this song, saying that the bass and drums on the song were mixed too low.

4. "Don't Stop" represents the more experimental side of the Roses. The song is actually a demo of "Waterfall" played backwards, with vocals (and apparently some cowbell) dubbed over. The band played the vocal-less track to producer John Leckie who told them "That's got to go on the record." John Squire took an unusual approach to writing the lyrics, "I wrote the lyrics by listening to waterfall backwards and writing down what the vocals might have been. It's fun doing that because you sort of remove your involvement from the song, you don't really know what's going to come next." "Don't Stop" is Ian Brown's favourite song on the album.

5. Track five is "Bye Bye Badman", a pleasant, jangly pop number in line with "She Bangs The Drums" and "Waterfall". Backed by a number of guitar tracks, the difficulty in reproducing these live is probably the reason for the Roses never performing it. Despite musically being light, the lyrics were apparently inspired by the 1968 student riots in Paris, France.

6. Next is "Elizabeth My Dear", a short piece (clocking in at 56 seconds) where Ian Brown, almost whispering with John Squire accompanying on guitar, decrys the monarchy. "My aim is true, my message is clear/It's curtains for you, Elizabeth my dear". Initially the song caused some outrage among the British tabloids, with Brown - on live television - only fuelling the fire when he talked of putting a blanket over the Queen Mother's head.

7. "(Song for my) Sugar Spun Sister" is track six. The lyrics have psychedelic tones, accompanied by a darker edge. "Her hair/Soft drifted white/Snow white/We all die tomorrow". "Until the sky turns green"/The grass is several shades of blue/Every Parliament member is tripping on glue."

8. "Made of Stone" was the album's lead single, as well as the Roses' breakthrough song, and is one of the harder numbers on the album. The guitar hook and bass line are now considered classic, and Ian Brown combines one of his stronger vocal performances with some of the Roses' most startling lyrics. "Sometimes I/Fantasise/When the streets are cold and lonely/And the cars they burns below me/Don't these times/Fill your eyes?".

9. "Shoot you Down" brings down the tempo, and allows John Squire a showcase for his guitar playing. It was the last song the Roses recorded for the album. Ian Brown sings of violently ending a grudge "I'd love to do it and you know you've always had it coming". Mani and Reni's respective backing bass and drums are subtle, working in the context of the song.

10. "This is the One" was the product of record producer Martin Hannett locking the Roses in a room and not letting them out until they had written a song. The song is perhaps the one from the album with the most audible influence to songs acts such as Blur and Oasis would produce in the years after. John Leckie admits it was one one of the harder songs to record, "This is the One caused the most problems. There was always a big question as to whether it should go on the record. It worked real well live, a bombastic thing that got faster and faster and was a bit Nirvana-ish. But we had to work hard on getting the dynamics right and making the speed changes work smoothly." With its possible biblical references, "This is The One" serves as a fitting opener what is the final song and what many argue to the centerpiece of the album...

11. The final song, "I am the Resurrection" is undoubtedly one of the Roses' classics. It also lyrically bookends nicely with the album's opener; with the band's legendary ego in full force. Ian Brown proclaims "I am the resurrection and I am the light/I couldn't ever bring myself/To hate you as I'd like" with a fury and venom usually uncharacteristic of him as a vocalist. Combined with Reni's pounding introduction, a funky Mani bass line and some of John Squire's most highly-regarded work on guitar, the song serves not just as a closer to the album, but almost all of the band's live sets from when it was first performed until their demise.

Stylus: Top 10 Stone Roses lyrics

Note: Score ratings in bold are Select Reviews, and "( )" the authors cited.