The Stone Roses were a big deal – a right time/right place band that helped give rise to the Madchester scene/sound and to this day manage to live on in the hearts of fans because of, primarily, the self-titled debut album. There was Second Coming, five years later. And though it has its fans, those people tend to begin the sentence in defence of the album with “I actually really like…” The clue there is in the stress and use of the word “actually”. They know – deep down – it’s a bit of a dud. Almost a turkey.
Guitarist John Squire formed a new band, The Seahorses. The one album offered by that band is just horrible. They forgot the songs. The only thing interesting about it is that Johnny Marr copied its sound, feel and distinct lack of songs for his album. That said something, I guess, about guitarists from touted British bands struggling to step out on their own under the thin guise of a new band.
The lead singer of The Stone Roses, Ian Brown, has released a swag of albums. People that actually really like Second Coming also actually really like a lot of those albums too.
Squire’s failure as a Seahorse sent him packing (up his guitar) and it was to a life of painting that he retreated. The Stone Roses’ drummer, Reni, didn’t get up to much music-wise. And the bassist, Mani, joined Primal Scream and also has a project called Freebass (it’s him and the ex-Smiths bassist, Andy Rourke and Peter Hook of Joy Division/New Order. No, really, it is).
And then the almost unthinkable (and yet somehow very predictable) happened. After Squire said he would never work with Brown again they decided to work with each other again. This happens often in the music world. It is explained away by “the timing being right” or a chance encounter giving band members an opportunity to “still feel a connection”. There might be “unfinished business”. All of these euphemistic interview-lines translate as we needed the money and/or we needed another go at having the fame.
Adulation and adoration do strange things to people. Lifestyles need to be maintained. Solo albums continue to tank, side-projects remain uninteresting and, inevitably, every release by every member of a band gets compared to the band they were in that actually was good. Or used to be good.
We can argue about what the story really is with The Stone Roses but apparently Brown and Squire reconnected after meeting up at the funeral for Mani’s mother. The reunion rumours turned to reports. And then the reports were confirmed.
And what you thought of the reunion comes down, ultimately, to what you thought of the band. A time/place thing – some will say. So crucial if you were there. So important. I might have been a bit young. I’ve done my time with the albums – I think they’re almost extraordinarily overrated.
The Stone Roses were good for one very strong EP. The problem? They housed that inside a full-length album. I was a fan for a while, sure. I like the rhythm section, the way the bass prods and pokes but also that undulating roll; the best of both sound-worlds (both worlds being a sort of dub meets rock/dance and indie). I find it hard now to take the mumbled lyrics and the scribbly guitar. I don’t see the band as anything more than a fad. I don’t feel they had any real importance or impact in my life. Probably because I wasn’t there at the time. You might want to point out that The Stone Roses were a bit like what Brian Eno apparently said about The Velvet Underground; that everyone who bought the album went out and formed a band. Well, thanks a lot Stone Roses!
From that much-revered debut album I would take the first three songs, I Wanna Be Adored, She Bangs The Drums and Waterfall. And from the end of the album, I Am The Resurrection. Chuck in Fools Gold (available on the American version of the album – or as a single) and that’s me done. That, for me, is the band. That’s all I need to hear from them now. I liked some of Second Coming at the time – but it was a giant letdown. Anyone convinced it’s the better album is having a laugh.
I couldn’t sit through a gig. And so I didn’t. I heard so many reports of how amazing the reunion shows were. But it would never have been for me.
And now it seems like they’re done. Again. And we’ll have a new Ian Brown album by Christmas no doubt.