Time for chapter ??? of my ongoing saga, titled “Bands I Missed the First Time Around.” This segment is titled: “The Stone Roses.”
In advance of additional comments, yes, I am probably going to do a whole sequence on post second-wave & Madchester bands incl. but not lmtd to: Echo and the Bunnymen, Joy Division, 808 State and others, but that’s for ANOTHER day when I’m killing time instead of working. Today, it’s the Stone Roses.
My first introduction to SR almost spoiled the rest of their work for me. Picture it: Detroit, 2000. I’m new to the rave & club scene and looking for music to sort of catch up and get into. Friends recommend checking out some compilations. One was Big Fat Dirty Beats, Part 1, which was…okay? It was all jump-up and breakbeats, and that’s really neither here nor there. The other was “Old School vs. New School” which if I am being honest I don’t understand why it isn’t a part of like everyone’s record collection. It is 100% worth buying for at a bare minimum Bad Boy Bill’s remix of Kool Moe Dee’s “I Go to Work” and Aphrodite’s remix of A Tribe Called Quest’s “Once Again.” That also is neither here nor there.
What’s germane to this story is the double-inclusion of The Stone Roses’s “Fools Gold” (triple inclusion on the extended cut) – one remix by Grooverider, one remix by Rabbit in the Moon (and then another remix by RITM because reasons). The Rabbit remix is…swanky? Kind of greasy? But the Grooverider remix is just THICC. Fool’s Gold is already danceable in a way that so much modern indie just isn’t, but then Grooverider increases the tempo to about 100bpm or so, punches up the bass, vocals, and snare, then relegates the guitar mostly to saucy hooks…it is THERE and it used to strike me as what the song always kind of wanted to be…but that’s because my headspace at the time wasn’t the same as when the song was written, which was the mid-to-late 1980s.
So for there to be indie rock in the mid-to-late 1980s, that meant that there were other people who found the music and culture of the era as gross as I did…Fool’s Gold was released in 1989, and probably being worked out in 1988, a sort of “Esprit L’Escalier” to the end of the Reagan / Thatcher era in politics and the oddly sterile, synthesized, video aesthetic of popular art in the last decade. It’s punk, but grown up and gotten a job, still enjoying the clubs over the pubs, still smoking too much, drinking less, thinking more, considering grad school, or maybe getting an apartment with some friends and really being serious about this art thing…nothing in the band’s formation, circa 1984, really supports that, but the sound emerges nevertheless in 1988.
So here’s the Stone Roses, peak Madchester, at the intersection of punk and dance. Porny bass riffs, hushed vocals, funky drummer drumming, a guitarist who knows when to fire off a lick and when to shut up and lay down a shag carpet of sound. Elements nevertheless of the Cure, cousin-similarities of sound to Echo and the Bunnymen…listen to “I Want to Be Adored” and come away sensing that Stone Roses and Joy Division used to hang out in high school but now don’t talk (Ian and Ian they would have called them…). For parentage, you can hear some twangy intros that betray a clear 1960s shagadellic echo…listen to the first notes of “Sally Cinnamon” and then listen to The Byrd’s “Turn Turn Turn.” Have that musical pedigree, do mushrooms a few times…out come the Stone Roses.
Thus concludes another chapter in my ongoing pseudo-discography of Bands I Missed the First Time Around. Should you listen to The Stone Roses? Well yes, they’re good – but they also provide an alternative to, say, Morrisey or The Smiths should you not want to give money to an outright racist but still want to wear gloomy clothes and smoke in a coffee shop.
ADDENDUM: Apparently Ian Brown, lead singer of TSR, went all conspiracy theorist during COVID so there’s that.