Monday, 18 March 2013

The Stone Roses

Manchester's The Stone Roses recently played here in Sydney, ironically at a festival called the "Future Music Festival". Ironic in the sense that the band had their biggest flush of fame in 1989.

The band had a long, slow gestation before hitting it big time in 1989 with their first, self-titled LP. They survived massive amounts of hype from the press in the UK and sold huge amounts of records. In Australia, they didn't fare too well, with only "Fools Gold" selling enough to land it in the top 20.

Musically they were an interesting mix of Beatle-esque jangly guitars, moody introspection a la fellow Mancs The Smiths, coupled with some dance beats from the emerging rave/house music scene. The sweet sounding melodies from vocalist Ian Brown often belied some dark and political lyrics, especially on tracks like "(Song for my) Sugar Spun Sister" and "I Am The Resurrection".

The band fell into legal disputes for a number of years which prevented the follow-up album "Second Coming" from being released until 1994. By then, the band had evolved and changed, but the album was panned by the press at the time because it didn't sound like "Stone Roses Part 2". There were a lot more trad-rock elements in the mix, such as some heavy slide-guitar on "Love Spreads".

The band imploded in 1996 leaving behind a massively convoluted discography. They only made two official albums, but they issued many non-LP singles on small labels, plus heaps of singles in conjunction with their albums that also had essential B-Sides on them. They have been collected on various albums such as "The Complete Stone Roses" but even then, well known versions of songs were substituted for demo versions or the tracks were heavily edited. As it stands, the first period of the band's work on small indie label Silvertone, has been recycled many many times, but the band's second LP has been given short shrift, with no comprehensive reissue or wrap-up of that period available.

The "Second Coming" LP is also a great listen, but be warned: as great as it is, if you compare it to the first record, it sounds disappointing. It is an album that stands on its own merits, but it is quite different from the work the band created before.

If you're a fan, you probably already have all the music as well as the 3 CD collectors reissue of the band's first LP. The Collectors version is on Spotify and it is essential listening throughout, as it pairs up the full original album, plus all the singles and B-Sides as well, in their full unedited versions.

If you've never heard the band before, it's often hard to know where to start. I'd suggest starting here, with The Very Best Of The Stone Roses, which couples the best of the singles and key album tracks from both albums. It's all killer and no filler - it's all essential listening.


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