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The Stone Roses
The Stone Roses (reissue) Neil Kulkarni , August 19th, 2009 09:09

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80 quid? Fucking hell, I must've been wrong about this one — see, I had this down as a wet steaming fart of fuck-all when it came out but 80 quid? Jeezus, it must be good, no, it must be postively crammed forth with pan-roasted goodness n'est ce pas? Sure, your reflex is to run, but maybe it's like the Smiths and if you scratch the surface (hold your noses) and forget your prejudice you'll find some men making heaven. I mean, 80, eight-zero not one-eight quid. 80 quid. This crock's gotta have some fucking gold inside to warrant such elitist pricing.

Let's crunch the numbers. Two CDs (one of the album, one of bootlegs you'll already have if you're in any way fussed enough), one live DVD, innumerable bits of paper, a few bits of vinyl, 80-squids. Your funeral pal, and I hope it is soon y'rich cunt. But let's get to the really big numbers, the important ones.

1989 — Unbelievable sounds from Manchester, none of which were by the Stone Roses — 'Vini Reilly' by Durutti Column, 'Justice (Just Us)' by Ruthless Rap Assassins, King Of The Slums 'Barbarous English Fayre'. Mostly forgotten, all pointing ways unexplored rather than roads now potholed with overuse. See, if you were looking the other side of your eye when Year Zero for lad-rock got declared, if you were otherwise distracted, the Stone Roses didn't-mean-SHIT to you. And ever since then, you may have never actually listened to this album. Oh sure it's come at you. Put on in flats by folks that you love as you bite your knuckles and flick your brain into escape-route mode, mentally knocking 'em off the Christmas Card list. Dripping down from the mirrorball as you scowl at the early 90s dancefloor waiting for the 'Razzmatazz' request that never came. Demanded in the DJ booth when you're behind the decks, lads disgusted at your non-ownership of this totem, sideyed-up desert-booted monkey-strutting wankers who'd go into their own scowlpose whenever you'd spin a hip-hop tune say, lads never twigging the sartorial irony of their kangols and bucket-hats, lads never really understanding, it now transpires, what the fuck the Stone Roses might have been about.

The crux being that coming to the Stone Roses for the first time, as I am today as a 'listener' as opposed to a 'victim', I can't allow the adherents and the gruesome sap they've been squeezing out of this lemon for 20 years to affect me. There's a lot you can blame the Roses for, most of it not their fault: like Primal Scream (those other flabby false-gods) I can't think of a single good band to have emerged from their influence (bar maybe the Manics). But listening as fresh as you can right now, queerly, the record The Stone Roses reminds me most of from '89 is Straight Outta Compton. Three good tracks and a right barrel-load of shite afterwards. A similarly malign influence over a few goodies and a whole lotta baddies ever since.

But make no mistake, for those first three songs — 'Adored', 'Bangs The Drum' and 'Waterfall' — those bands that came at the wake seem minuscule. Undoubtedly the Roses were blessed with things they didn't, couldn't pass on. Blessed with a drummer on a lil' three-piece kit who just fkn KNEW, a bassist who'd listened, a guitarist just the right side of wanky who could write anthems and a singer who sounded like he cared and was smart, Sure you can hear the roots, you can hear a familiar lexicon of listening and learning in the years before they came together as four — it's listening that's well-obvious perhaps (Stones, Love, Beatles, Byrds, Zep, dub, northern-soul) but it's listening that's been absorbed, amplified, attempted at with a unique slant and spirit.

Reni's chops aren't showy, but they pump every moment with energy and hope, enabling and animating everything else as a drummer should. Mani is the kind of bassist you could follow and lose yourself in to the exclusion of the rest — then when you snap back and hear the whole he disappears into the melody, sits back for the hooks, does only what's right. Squire lashes together licks from his library and they're good licks and it's a good library. Let's think about the little numbers awhile, down to the fractions, the important ones. Nearly every band since '89 that's in any way attempted to equal these three tracks, the precise feel of them, has failed to remain as intact, fragile or as believable. And on those three, Ian Brown — who will never be better than The Late Show — Ian Brown pitches it just about right — he sounds like a nobody who hopes to be a star. Ever since, the likes of Liam Gallagher have got it just wrong (sounding like a somebody convinced they're a star already) but for these three songs, for all the ambition of the lyrics, Brown's voice has a grain of hopelessness amidst the hope, a glum forlornness his more macho forebears have seemingly never twigged or been able to recreate.

If the 'Roses had released these three tracks as an EP and then died in a van-crash, taken with the two singles that preceded the album, they'd be nudging the greats. And I'd have them up there with Nightmares On Wax, LFO, AC Temple and The Happy Mondays as the 'up North stuff' we gave a fuck about down here in the middle near the end of the 80s. Difference being — all of these bands had more than three good tracks and none of them have succeeded in the kind of posthumous godhead the 'Roses have. Again, not the 'Roses fault (though hugely beneficial to them). But grating when you consider just how much The Stone Roses tails off. Something sad and embarrassing happens after those first three tracks, something that should've stayed small and unheard but has been inflated into the hallowed realms of 'quality' ever since. Every Stone Roses fan I've ever spoke to has bandied the word 'quality' around — 'they're just quality', 'it's quality music' — but holdupa second, listen to this frigging record. This is quality control gone AWOL in a major, degenerative way.

Simply put, four tracks in, half the band start showing their limitations badly. Jon Squire and Ian Brown have done all they have to do, the tunes become samey (as signposted by 'Don't Stop''s direct reverse-gurgitation of 'Waterfall'), Brown's vocals attaining the same monotune-irritant value as that twat outta Blink 182, that same unlovely unlovable monotune he's been jiggling round ever since. Squire's goldmine simply runs dry and starts hacking up gunk — his imagination can't quite stretch, he sounds like he's chasing originality when clearly UNASHAMED rawk-pilfering (see the much better I reckon Second Coming) is his true forte.

Oddly enough, it's only those songs you've heard too many fucking times that actually rise out of the gruel — 'Made Of Stone' and 'I Am The Resurrection' are both way too bloody long, but at least swing with hooks — the rest ('Bye Bye Badman', 'Sugar Spun Sister', 'This Is The One') are way too dullasfuck to allow any kind of flow, intrigue or wonder to this supposed great debut, let alone explain why so many dads and dad's lads routinely vote this 'classic', hold this up as the Greatest British Yadayada of BlahBlah. Again, gotta admit — that veneration ain't the 'Roses fault, and Mani and Reni remain intriguing throughout. But for two whole thirds of this album they're an awesome heartbeat ill-served by their frontmen — something that becomes clear and calamitous on 'Shoot You Down' and 'Fools Gold' (yeah, it's the US version you're getting, like it or not).

Both songs emerge from rhythm-section jams, free floating ideas (in 'Fools Gold''s case perhaps from the 'Something's Burning' demo). One's full of space and impact, the other's busy and directed at the feet — both great grooves waiting on a vision, big open Kingston/Dusseldorf tings much better suited to hip-hop, to some real verbals, some real loops. Then look what the twats from Timperley slop on top: Brown's vocals sound like a first-go you'd ditch, Squire's attempts at Free-style silkiness and liquidity coming across way more like Reef-style lumpeness and flash. That horrible wah-wah and all those funkless chops became the bedrock of the next decade's appalling attempts for lad-rock to get 'dancey' — you can hear a whole flotilla of Kula Shakers and Ocean Colour Scenes listening attentively.

On the cack second side of The Stone Roses, John Leckie's bigsound-cleanliness and echoey aftertaste really start to tickle the gullet, but in rendering Brown charmless and self-cornered, and Squire so monochrome and one-dimensional it's a production that's finally and damningly revealing, exposing tiny tired ideas in this big open hangar of sound. On such occasions, the demos are preferable, and you realise how this record hasn't so much been corrupted by its descendents as predestined that deterioration by its own sorry endings and fizzled-out fuses — this is a profoundly disatisfying clapped-out 'classic', a deeply disappointing 'essential' to anyone's collection.

Listening to The Stone Roses for the first, and gotta admit last time in my life (I just won't get as angry in the clubs when one of the hits comes on), the tragedy that emerges isn't that the Stone Roses 'won' their cursed-future as touchstone/bible (for all bibles are misunderstood); it's more that some people in bands can be bossier than others, can win out within the band-unit itself, can waste possibility in the dead-ends of a stunted imagination.

By the album's end even those first three bombs seem diffused, seem like the sound of a band rushing forth but also running out of ideas. And it's in that faffy, wooly second-side that I recall just why I hated the Stone Roses so much aged 17. It was because they were being hailed as gods but they sounded so earthbound, so (blame Leckie again) like the shit we thought we'd left behind by '89. There's a claggy clogged-up taste, a pristine feel to the sheen on this album that makes it oft-sound like some nightmare conflation of Del Amitri, the Lightning Seeds amd Steve Lilywhite. The Stone Roses might not have actually given us Oasis, Kasabian, The Libertines, every great shite hope since — but they gave us the template of fleeting brilliance and overwhelming mediocrity that's been more-than-enough for a whole generation of musicians now. And the fleeting brilliance, the sound they get on those first three songs has gone altogether — on the first three songs they don't sound smug about what they're doing, they sound like they're discovering it. The rest of this monolith, and much of what it's inspired, is lazy, coasting, kindling, contentment — nothing to make you part with your cash either then or now.

Because no, you weren't wrong the first time around. There was SO MUCH MORE than this going on in 1989. Doolittle. 3 Ft High & Rising. L'eau Rouge. Playing With Fire. Paul's Boutique, 33/45/78, The Great Adventures Of Slick Rick, Margin Walker, Done By The Forces Of Nature, A.R Kane's 'I', The Cactus Album, The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste, Walking With A Panther, Batman, Streetcleaner, Ghetto Music:The Blueprint, Altars Of Madness, Nice & Smooth, Road To The Riches, Unfinished Business, Youngest In Charge, Beneath The Remains. They were fearless and they went all the way and like The Stone Roses they spawned plenty of ugly offspring. But all of them really are 'classics' in the livable-with, imperishable and cherishable sense — they won't all get the 80-quid deluxe spunkathon-treatment but they're things you want to protect and keep because they still sound immortal. They don't fail, they don't fall-off and none of them now sound like a hoax perpetrated on the public. In comparison to the real highlights of '89, whether they bequeathed whole scenes or slipped into oblivion, The Stone Roses is some over-rated filler-heavy bullshit.

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Fred Zeppelin
Aug 19, 2009 1:34pm

Well said that man for a well overdue rebalancing. In my book, it's a good album but certainly not a great one and Kulkarni's review nails it perfectly.

Nice one, top one, sorted, nishin', clishin' and bishin'!

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barry buckle
Aug 19, 2009 2:33pm

Dearie me, that's a lot of pent up aggression.

Lad rock?

Pull the other one it's got bell(bottom)s on.

(3 discs btw and it cost me a whole giro)

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Aug 19, 2009 4:18pm

Seems Neil Kulkarni got his facts wrong. The 2CD/1DVD version isn't 80 quid, it's £25. The £80 version is 3CD/1DVD/3LP/1USB. It also IS NOT the US tracklisting as he claims. Makes one wonder if he even has the goods he pretended to review. Shoddy!

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John Doran
Aug 19, 2009 5:27pm

GB: Whether you like the Kulk's review or not, he is, to be fair, reviewing exactly the same two disc press preview thing that I got sent.

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Senor Alec
Aug 20, 2009 7:26am

Like many people, I loved several of the other albums of '89 you mention (and Pulp) AND The Stone Roses. It wasn't an either-or choice. Blaming the Roses for Oasis and the legions of ladrock is like blaming Zep for Def Leppard. As you partly acknowledge, the Roses' music had a loneliness, a fluidity and subtlety that puts them miles away from Oasis. Fools Gold sounds more like Can than anything else FFS!

Regarding the patchiness of the album, you seem to grudgingly acknowledge the quality of those tracks (the first three, plus Made of Stone and Resurrection) that you would have been vastly more exposed to back in the day. Maybe the other are just growers? I know I always thought that She Bangs was one of the weakest tracks.

Anyway, thanks for an original review and a good read. You certainly nailed the rhythm section.

PS Don't know why I'm bothering to write this - I got bored shitless of the Roses ten years ago, but that leaves another ten when I couldn't shake them off.

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pisces x
Aug 20, 2009 7:59am

Demanded in the DJ booth when you're behind the decks, lads disgusted at your non-ownership of this totem

you wouldn't believe how many times this has happened to me.
it's baffling!

great piece this. neil i still recall your NED'S ATOMIC DUSTBIN review in the Maker with affection.

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hobbes the tiger
Aug 20, 2009 12:36pm

It's a well written article, but you're bang wrong about the album. As Senor Alec said, it's not an either\or situation.
It's also quite possible to listen to music without buying into the lifestyle. You can be a sensitive shoe-gazing fop and still think "This is the One" is fucking brilliant. Swaggering buffoonery isn't a madatory element of liking the Roses. Or even Oasis presumably (although I'd obviously rather present myself at an abatoir for a swift bolt-gun to the temple than go to one of their sub-pub rock extravaganzas to find out.)

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Charlie Allom
Aug 20, 2009 8:59pm

You mention you 17 year old persona of pessimism as some evidence of credibility - but it just sounds like you haven't moved on. I don't mind your opinion but your article is 'faffy, wooly & cack'.

You've missed the marvel that is very almost a few well placed mistakes turned into a great few songs. I've never heard of it called quality (apart from Leckie's input) but I've seen it stir some great stories.

Why do classics need to be masterpieces?

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emporer ming
Aug 20, 2009 10:47pm

Oh dear, the media never did get the Stone Roses, they still resent the fact that the music they were trying to force us to listen to was ignored and years later they are still having a tantrum about it! Get over it Neil, you don't like the record, we love it! it changed a lot of lives, it inspired people, it was a beautiful, sensitive, thrilling record in all the way that King Of The Slums never could be!

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Dr. Keloid
Aug 21, 2009 12:33am

Don't call yourself "we", Ming. Who needed to be *forced* to like greater '89 albums by the Pixies, Jungle Brothers, Young Gods, Fugazi etc? How exactly did the Stone Roses "inspire" people, other than inspiring them to wear fishing hats & smoke draw? 'Bummed' kicked bums much harder than this floppy insipidity.

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R. S.
Aug 21, 2009 2:36am

First of all, I'm from the U.S., so I never got to experience the whole 'lad rock' scene this guy is talking about. All I know is that 'The Stone Roses' is among, maybe, my 3 favorite albums EVER. And yes, I have actually LISTENED to all of it, probably a hundred times. Still love it just as much as the first time I heard that finale to Resurrection. Filler? ...Seriously? Have YOU listened to it?

It seems to me like the author is still bitter after all these years because his hip scene got steamrolled by the Stone Roses zeitgeist. The only '89 albums he listed that are at the same level of class are 3 Ft. High and Paul's Boutique. Doolittle was original, but aside from the critics, who will still listen to that in 30 years?

This review is shite.

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emporer ming
Aug 21, 2009 7:24am

Keloid, the 'we' I'm talking about is the people who love the record and have loved it since they heard it because they love its melodic power, its atmosphere, its fluid rhythmic power, its lyrical bite and its sense of community- all things that weasely journalists hate. The Stone Roses were discovered by people and not hyped, the music press got on this one too late and jumped on the bandwagon- they will never forgive the band for that. years later they still look down from their ivory towers sneering at the music that the public like- that's why no-on reads the music press anymore, that holier than thou attitude just doesn't wash any more. the re-writing of rock history to suit journo ends has seen music journalism disappear into the void. So what you don't like the record but while you desperately hyped the Pixies, Jungle Brothers, Young Gods, Fugazi etc- I still laugh at the Melody maker's desperate hyping of Slowdive and Chapterhouse type of bands at the same time a whole youthquake was going on- it was like getting told what to listen to by your parents! the music press stopped being important by the late eighties- the public were already ignoring you! the best party was on the other side of town with acid house and Manchester and you were still trying to flog your crummy college mates bands to use...out of touch and out of time and still bitter about it after all these years!

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dom Kaos
Aug 21, 2009 9:25am

Oh thank god - I thought I was the only person on the planet who thought the album was a bit rubbish! Second Coming is a much better album. Except for that f@cking annoying "comedy" secret track, obviously.

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Dr. Keloid
Aug 21, 2009 8:41pm

You're telling me most of the music press was *against* the Stone Roses, & all those albums Kulkarni cited are only liked by journalists & snobs? That's preposterous.

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Richard T
Aug 31, 2009 12:32pm

What a tedious and dreary album it is / was. A bunch of second-rate Byrds copyists knock out some tosh and get hailed as messiahs! you couldn't make it up.

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Richard T
Aug 31, 2009 12:32pm

What a tedious and dreary album it is / was. A bunch of second-rate Byrds copyists knock out some tosh and get hailed as messiahs! you couldn't make it up.

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Johnny Nothing
Sep 2, 2009 8:55pm

Although I really liked John Tatlock's piece (cos I learned stuff) I must admit that I fall on the side of this article. Felt it than and still do.

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Jason Power
Sep 7, 2009 8:14am

Another Lester Bangs wannabe article, when are we going to get out of this type of writing?
As regards the album review, Like all music it brings different meanings and emotions to different people, I'm sure if you showed this to anyone that was at Spike Island, the Hacienda or was having their formative years with this music and the rest you mentioned, they would feel outraged at your bilious desecration of the good memories they have, people love this album, some people also love the stock aiken and waterman stuff out then, some even love the x-factor tripe out now, so what!
Is it worth getting all worked up about?
If you don't like it, do a constructive review outlining why, this makes you sound like someone who's band were overlooked for the stone roses in getting a deal.

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Lucy Cage
Sep 16, 2009 11:40pm

Hey Neil! Glad to see you're still fuming after all these years. I'd maybe put in a bid for I Am The Resurrection as being included as the closer on your theoretical, pre-car crash perfect EP, but enjoyed the piece immensely, particularly by being reminded of all that was breath-taking that year and all that has since been lost from view, at partly because it was extraordinary enough not to have spawned Gallagher-headed babies.

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Oct 13, 2009 2:28pm

the moment young neil used the word ladrock he was immediately discretided. Ladrock is used by middle class pompous journos as an umbrella term for working class music. end of. Notice the manipulation of journos for they are a sneaky creature. When they are writing a postive review it is influenced by people, when negative they've nicked it. "a good artist borrows other people's music, a great artist steals". Paul McCartney said that. What people dont understand is that fucking everyone steals from everyone else. The Beatles basically just ripped off all their influences, and are the greatest band of all time. Jimi hendrix, playing the guitar with his teeth you say? T Bone Walker anyone? The Sex Pistols riffs were just an appropriatation of the who's. THe Who, Can't Explain, Kinks rip off. Your an idiot mate, your articles just a pedestal to gain attention, and it has worked, but anyone with half a brain notices its a complete pile of shit

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Oct 14, 2009 4:36am

Hahahaha.....geezer hit piece! I ain't buyin' it mister.

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alan savage
Jan 6, 2010 2:17am

This review really nails it! The Stone Roses had moments of greatness in a retro-sixties kind of way but they were certainly NOT the great band that they believed themselves to be ( I remember being put off by their po-face arrogance at the time)
However, I do have to say that ' I am the resurrection' is one of the all-time great closing tracks on any album and the chorus of the song is one that Noel Gallagher for one has never matched in terms of that goose-pimple effect. Still, great to see the balance redressed in this review! (Their second album was utter garbage by the way, despite what believers say)

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Aug 19, 2010 8:50am

What a tosspot. I can only imagine what type of crap your ears listen to.

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menopausal meg
Oct 18, 2011 8:15pm

Oh dear, some people still, just don't get it.

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Nov 8, 2011 9:07pm

I'll never, ever understand how sentences get written that call Happy Monday's one of 'the greats' as a band. Just ... will never understand. I've never heard one single GOOD song by them, and I've heard a lot of their songs, many many times. Their best tracks are worse than the worst tracks on The Stone Roses (Elizabeth My Dear, Don't Stop). Even as lovely an album as The Stone Roses is, they simply have too small a body of work to even think about comparing to the (actual) greats, it was just a stunning full-length debut which happened to say just about all this particular foursome had to say - seemingly the always-missed, obvious conclusion as to why that body of work was so small. They made Second Coming, and as we all know, ho-hums abounded. Making one awesome album that people are still dissecting decades later is a major accomplishment though, in and of itself. For all the talk of the 'greatness' of drooling slobs like Happy Mondays, they of course never made an album worthy of the scrutiny that The Stone Roses receives. They're just a codeword in a certain part of the rock world that gives you a certain kind of cred (and is probably just a shorthand way of asking people if they've got any dope.)

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Jan 23, 2015 8:36pm

Three tracks!! What a dufus. The album sounds pretty perfect to me.

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Dec 10, 2015 5:00pm

What an idiot. This 'review' is laughably pathetic. The album is a clear 10/10 and it's not even debatable.

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