Classic album: The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses

Originally appeared on The Daily Shift on July 5 2012, a new fabulous website founded by Jessica Thompson and Cathal Power…

The Stone Roses back in the 90s (via Manchester Music Tours)

The Stone Roses back in the 90s (via Manchester Music Tours)


 Manchester has long punched above its weight in the cultural, music, and sporting spheres. Liverpool might have given the world the Beatles (and yes, some other very good artists, like Echo and the Bunnymen, Ladytron and Elvis Costello too) but we have Manchester to thank for (deep breath) Doves,  The Verve,  The Smiths, Oasis,  Joy Division, New Order,  Happy Mondays, 10cc (I fricking love 10cc, OK?!) , and tons more. Even the Bee Gees were from down the road in Chorlton.

Such was the musical strength of Manchester in the late 1980s/early 1990s that the city’s music scene was rechristened Madchester. Centred on the legendary Hacienda nightclub, the music was a direct descendant of the guitar sound pioneered by the Smiths, crossed with something new and embryonic; dance and rave music. The result was something truly special- dance beats, jangly guitars, soaring melodies, all combined into a truly distinctive sound.

Central to the Madchester scene were the Stone Roses. Fronted by Ian Brown, the band were an  uncompromising presence on the British music scene. For two glorious years in 1989 and 1990, they had the world at their feet; but due to legal wrangles with their record label it would be another four years before they released a second album. The band dissolved in acrimony in 1996, only to reform in 2011.

Detractors say the band are currently chasing old glories and cash, and they only ever released one good album. But what an album it is.

The album starts eerily with a build up of white noise and feedback, before a strumming heavy bass leads us into ‘I Wanna Be Adored’. The thumping drum line- there’s that house influence- pulsates through a melancholy tune, delivered with supreme angst by Brown, that probably inspired thousands of ’90s kids to stare soulfully at their bedroom ceilings. The song comes to a sudden halt with one final repeat of the line “I wanna be adored” and then it’s straight into ‘She Bangs The Drums’.

Well with a name like that, you have to have a decent percussion line, and the instrumentation is everything in this track. Probably as upbeat and jangly as anything released during the era (“the past is yours but the future’s mine”) the song straight away puts you in mind of sunny days during the second summer of love. Slices of anthemic pop-rock have rarely been bettered.

Reverb takes us into the unmistakable guitar riff of ‘Waterfall’ (which will forever remind me of RTE’s The Panel, oh well). This song was narrowly beaten by A Guy Called Gerald’s ‘Voodoo Ray’ in a 2005 poll to find the song which best represented Madchester. John Squire’s guitar line in ‘Waterfall’ quickens and slows throughout until the end where it descends into a frenzy. A testament to the bands psychedelic influences, which segues straight into ‘Don’t Stop’.

It begins with the rhythm of a train track overlayed with almost Beatle-like Indian trippiness. Vocals and music crossfade into each other to give the listener a disorienting aural experience. ‘Waterfall’ is still there somewhere, but it has been distorted and changed into something new and strange.

Then there was the time Ian Brown was in Harry Potter (via What Culture)

Then there was the time Ian Brown was in Harry Potter (via What Culture)

Things calm down with ‘Bye Bye Badman’ which begins with a persistent guitar strumming and the tinkling of a triangle. It’s one of the poppiest efforts on the album, with its simple formula of verse-hook-chorus. The rather sinister lyrics (“I want to make you black and blue and I’m gonna make you bleed”) are disguised by the sing-along chorus.

At just under sixty seconds, the anti-monarchist ‘Elizabeth My Dear’ is the shortest track on the album. Set to the air of the English traditional ballad ‘Scarborough Fair’ it’s a withering put down of royalty.

The subdued vocal of ‘(Song for My) Sugar Spun Sister’ is another dark love song. Distorted guitar and lyrics about MPs sniffing glue come from the darker underbelly of Madchester. Google this song, because there is an ongoing debate on what the lyrics mean.

It’s onto the gloriousy  melancholy ‘Made of Stone’, the singalong chorus, dark verse, and throbbing bassline showing Smiths influence. This song, which the band famously began to perform on the BBC’s Late Show before the power went, is about “making a wish and watching it happen” according to Squires, and it certianly has that dreamlike feeling.

Jungle-eque drums lead us into ‘Shoot You Down’. This 60s tinged song has soft guitar and has Brown sing accappella on the chorus. A great one to stick on after someone’s pissed you off.

Manchester United have long opened games at Old Trafford with ‘This is The One’ and it is hard to imagine anything more epic filling a stadium. “This is the one she’s waited for”- a song that could be about anything from travelling to first love to leaving home (“I’d like to leave the country for a month of Sundays, burn the town where I was born”). A truly transcendent song, which fades out into echos and reverbs, and sticks long in the memory. (You might have guessed that this is my favourite Stone Roses song).

The album closer, ‘I Am The Resurrection’ is probably one of their most famous songs. A really great melody, it’s a scathing and upbeat eff-off song. (“Don’t waste your words, I don’t need anything from you”) Ian Brown said it’s a diatribe against the church, after he saw the words “I am the resurrection” on a church poster. Ending in a four-minute instrumental, it’s a suitably epic conclusion to the Stone Roses’ debut, which consistently fetches up in all-time best of lists.

Alternating between tender moments, snatches of anger and bitterness, and inspirational tunes, it’s truly something special.

If you’re lucky enough to see the Stone Roses tonight, enjoy what should be a savage gig. If not, stick on this album, it’s one to savour.

Ahead of the Stone Roses’ gig at the Phoenix Park tonight, Roisin Peddle takes a look at their debut album as part of her classic albums series.

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