‘The Stone Roses’ released in 1989 was, and is, one of the greatest records of all time. An instant classic it is just peerless and magical, held in similar esteem as greats from Joy Division/New Order and The Smiths, the holy trinity for us of Manchester, England’s musical output. From guitarist John Squire's virtuoso display, to the flawed vocal range yet utterly convincing iconic swagger of singer Ian Brown, and the funk of Mani and Reni's groove as backing. From the brash confidence of the group's music, to the epic status of their sound and lyrical content, and from the nonchalant coolness of their imagery to the Squire-designed highly artistic sleeve work. This album is just brilliant. And is the single reason why the news of their reunion, after 15 years of acrimony, is worthy of our attention.
Considered to be the band that really fused guitar music with the drug-induced joy of the emergent rave scene, in fact this label does them an injustice. Though clearly an influence on them collectively and culturally, the so-called rave scene and it's influence on the music is only subtly suggested, rather than explicitly evident. Rather, this is an album that harks back to bands like Love and Big Star, with a psychedelic swirl of genius on a grand scale, pop accessibility and musical brilliance, albeit soaked in the sweat of legendary Manchester nightclub The Hacienda.
Consistently rated as one of the best British albums of all time, the irony is that the Stone Roses, through record label, legal and personnel struggles, could not follow up their debut sufficiently quickly to cement their position of greatness. Follow-up ‘Second Coming’ arrived over 5 years later, and while itself under-rated and containing some moments of brilliance, represented a band with perhaps too many pleasures up their noses, and creatively searching for a direction that never came. The moment was lost and thousands of fans still feel the pain of these missing years. And The Roses, in their own absence, have assumed an almost mythic status, the curse of the what-ifs.
Perhaps, as with other things in life, some things are best left unknown. Could the Stone Roses have ever matched the sublime output of their early years? Was their debut album, and uniquely fantastic single releases such as ‘Sally Cinnamon’, ‘Fool's Gold’ and ‘One Love, just a reflection of a moment in time when four musicians gelled in a quite inspired and inspiring burst of creativity, a moment best appreciated for what actually resulted, rather than what might have been? Will their reunion be a damp squib, an eternal taint on their iconic reputation. Who knows? And if a band are going to burn brightly and then fade away, their debut album is probably the archetype of how to do it. As Ian Brown demands on the opener, ‘I Wanna Be Adored’. He was, and they remain so for a whole generation of fans. As for his claims that he and the band were the resurrection? Probably that too. Guess now we’ll find out.