February 2nd, 2000

The Stone Roses

In the Channel 4/HMV Music Of The Millennium poll, one album was adjudged to have eclipsed The Stones/Velvets/Hendrix/ Nirvana/ all Black music. Only Sergeant Pepper was deemed its superior. That album was The Stone Roses’ eponymous 1989 debut, voted Second Best Of All Time. Astral Weeks wasn’t a patch, Pet Sounds could kiss its baggy backside, who the fuck was Bob Dylan?

The Stone Roses? One wonders, like Tony Hancock in The Rebel, eyeing a shambolic, sub-Jackson Pollock canvas not dissimilar to John Squire’s cover artwork, “Who’s gone raving mad here?” It’s understandable the desperation for some sort of convulsive change in the late Eighties, with rock populated by a tired, farrago of tight black trousered jangle-strummers and pointy shoed underfed Goths but were people really this desperate?

That The Stone Roses was the catalyst for the freer, funkier, loose fit sound of the Nineties has more to do with the cut of their jeans and the fact that they gigged at Manchester warehouse raves at the right time, rather than their actual music. The Stone Roses were, supposedly, the point where rock absorbed the values of the acid house, smiley-smiley, dancey dancey scene, Britain’s own revolt into futurist colour to match 1967. Yet this album – musically reactionary, surly, egotistical and marinated in grey indie-isms – couldn’t have less to do with the happy, bouncy, selfless ethic/aesthetic of rave.

The Stone Roses was actually as long in the making as its notorious follow-up, which is why, in spite of lyrical boasts such as “The past is yours, the future’s mine”, it’s more redolent of dreary, forgotten indie combos like The Mighty Lemon Drops than any future sound, clothed in the second-hand, pastelly garb of 1986. “Waterfall”, with its wishy-washy psychedelia, “Sugar Spun Sister” and “She Bangs The Drums” are all standard paeans to the evanescent “She”, the It Girl of every knock-kneed indie boy’s wet dreams, a Julie Christie lookalike who’s into The Fall. This is the drivel both My Bloody Valentine and Primal Scream had gotten out of the system BEFORE they made their masterpieces.

When The Stone Roses isn’t wistful, it’s truculent, revealing that anti-social streak which landed the band in endless squabbles, stand-offs and court cases offstage. But the threat of “Bye Bye Badman”‘s spleen, “I’m gonna throw stones . . I want you black and blue” is laughably undermined by its feeble, clippety-cloppety rhythms. The Stone Roses is, however, most revered for its daring boastfulness. But what is “I Wanna Be Adored” if not a rock’s own counterpart to Bros’ “When Will I Be Famous”? And what’s to adore? Brown’s weak warble, coupled with Squire’s epic doodles fail miserably in filling the song’s cavernous space. It’s like small boys playing at rock stars in a big basement.

As for “I Am The Resurrection”, the final track, it sounds more like the resurrection of a Ringo Starr solo single, before the band remember this is supposed to be the “future” and finally switch into a laboured funk-rock gear which the likes of A Certain Ratio and New Order would have laughed out of the studio years earlier. The Nineties have borne out The Roses’ unworthiness. Five years of bloodymindedness, laziness and litigiousness would follow before their second album but that wasn’t their undoing. Their real undoing is that they weren’t much cop, ever. Which is why the turgid The Second Coming would subsequently and indecently soon become available for  £4.99 at HMV, why The Seahorses are a bigger joke than The Shirehorses, why their Reading performance ranks among the worst in history and why Ian Brown has to act like an oversized spoilt kid on a plane to be of any interest these days. They’re not up to it, never were. Like Oasis, they were willed into being because of a collective desire for Something to Happen. But it happened anyway, with Happy Mondays inter alia. There was no need for this crap.

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