Late 80s Manchester. Already a major hub for Alternative music, with local bands such as Joy Division, New Order, The Smiths and Happy Mondays all leaving a mark, and Tony Wilson's romantically idealistic, shamelessly maverick Factory records giving the conventional music industry run by people who didn't have a clue the good old two fingers. A great place to be if you weren't into Wham! or Bananarama like the cool kids were. But one band would change Alternative rock forever.
The Stone Roses, four lads from a council estate, Ian Brown, John Squire, Mani and Reni, produced an album which many bands have tried to replicate, but not one of them have come close to producing the magic of their debut album. Before the Roses and their debut came along, Indie Rock was confined to small venues. Afterwards, you saw the likes of Oasis, Blur, Manic Street Preachers and Radiohead selling out stadiums and arenas.
Within The Stone Roses you had Squire's spine-tingling, jingly jangly guitar picking, giving you the vision of being in a daze on a lazy summer's day. Mani brought the grooves to the band, his bass playing as conclusive proof that you can dance to Rock music after all. Reni's unrestrained drumming, hitting whatever he feels like and miraculously holding it all together, as if Keith Moon had been reincarnated as a floppy hat wearing scally. And, to top it all off, Ian Brown's chillingly raspy vocals, the epitome of cool, never angering, just calmly keeping the pace.
An entire generation had been defined by the eleven tracks on this album (or, thirteen, if you own the American version). The album opens with the explosive, anthemic I Wanna Be Adored, a song you can't help but shout out with memorable lyrics, a great guitar riff and that recognisable bassline which kicks things off. And then, the album is closed with I Am The Ressurrection. The band's eight minute magnum opus starts off a tight and well-restrained pop ditty, and ends with madness in the form of what was apparently an improvised jam section, guitar solos left right and centre, haunting yelps in the background and a rhythm section that would turn any other band green with envy.
In between however, you have a fantasic pick of songs. Waterfall, another one with an instantly recognisable melody, hops along to the beat with lyrics about American Imperialism. Made Of Stone is a dark number which tells of someone fantasising about dying in a car crash with his lover. Bye Bye Badman is an account of the 1968 Paris Riots with an ever changing tempo, Elizabeth My Dear is an anti-Monarchy protest song to the tune of Scarborough Fair, and She Bangs The Drums is possibly one of the greatest love songs of all time, which builds up and builds up to a chorus you won't forget any time soon. All along what can only be described as a journey when listening to this album, the songs are sprinkled with lyrics of religious imagery and guitar licks that hark back to the Psychedelic Pop days of the 1960s. Some theorise that it is actually a concept album, about the life and death of Jesus.
Now, I am always quick to defend the band's follow-up album, Second Coming, released six years later. Sure it's different but it still has some great songs on it. An underrated masterpiece. But I could never compare it to the album that sustained Manchester's place on the map forever. It's an album that just can't be copied, no matter how many bands try. There was nothing like it before, and there's been nothing like it since. The album is youthful, romantic, idealistic. It's confident, maverick, intelligent. It is perfection.
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